Objective Morality

Just a quick one for now: Is morality objective?

If morality is objective, then something is right or wrong regardless of whatever intelligent beings decide. God is an intelligent being. Therefore if morality is objective, something is right or wrong regardless of whether or not God decides it to be so. Thus God does not decide what is right or wrong, he merely communicates what he knows to us.

Now I'm guessing that most Christians will find that conclusion difficult to accept: of course God has a say in what is right or wrong, he's the Creator isn't he? OK, so let's make morality contingent. Well, bang goes the argument for the existence of God on the basis of objective morality!!

So if we're trying to understand morality, if morality is contingent, it could just as easily have been created by humans as by God. By Occam's principle, it is foolish to invoke a more complex explanation when a simple one will do. We must first look for a purely naturalistic explanation of morality, and only turn to a supernatural explanation when a naturalistic explanation is proven not to exist.

Conversely, if morality is objective, then God cannot be invoked as an explanation, as this gets us nowhere.


  1. There is a distinction between the things of God a...

    by TAPSEARCHER on 12 FEBRUARY 2009 at 7:15PM
    There is a distinction between the things of God and the things of man. Of course Divine assistence is always better than just the rational approach.

    However, we live in a world where many do not want to take God into their lives in a direct way or - head on. Many try to find the order of things in a philosophical way in the study of being as being.

    Even thought this only leads us up to the door of Faith. We must then knock and God opens us to the Divine - It is supernatural.

    However, moral objectivity should not be limited to this alone. All men should seek moral objectivity of what is right and what is wrong beyond human opinion. It is actually a pragmatic thing to do since the biblical saying - do unto others as you would have them do to you - is a very practical exercise too.

    However, there is no reason for seeking truth if it is considered just a subjective pursuit. This makes no sense.

    I think we all have met someone in our lives who seemed to be inherently naturally good. These are the people that make us wonder about what is possible outside the supernatural Divive help of God.

    I explore philosophy and religion for another reason since human dignity in the workday is under assault in the global economic arena. I also explore it because an old study haunts me. This old study never seems to change. It reported that 70 percent of all church goers are unable to bring their Saturday or Sunday worship spirit to the workweek.

    See http://www.therationale.com
    ( There is a healing prayer there for those who are seeking the second touch of the Lord .)
  2. Jon, I think you're misunderstanding me. Granted, ...

    by STU SHERWIN on 05 DECEMBER 2006 at 9:24PM
    Jon, I think you're misunderstanding me. Granted, 1) if God exists, 2) he has revealed himself to humans, and 3) the Bible is an accurate record of this revelation, then sure, God is like the Bible says he is. Now of course you and all Christians are free to presuppose these things. I myself can't do that.

    That's beside the point however. My question is, regardless of what God is actually like, why is he this way? Does the definition of a God entail that he hate the suffering of the innocent, or is it logically possible that a God could exist which did not hate this?

    My question about possible worlds was not "Is there another universe out there that exists now in which God is evil", but is there a possible world in which God is evil as opposed to (let's assume for the sake of argument) the current one in which he is good?

    A possible world is merely a logical construct to describe a collection of statements to which truth values have been assigned. For instance, possible world A contains the statements "Jim likes beans" and "Jim is married", and possible world B contains the statement "Jim likes beans" and "Jim is a bachelor". Both worlds are logically possible, i.e. there is no inherent contradiction in Jim's liking for beans and his married state. However, there is no possible world in which the statements "Jim is married" and "Jim is a bachelor" both hold. This is because there is an inherent contradiction between the two statements, and it is impossible for that world to be the true one.

    Now let's use this method to talk about God. Possible world A contains the statements "God exists" and "God hates the suffering of the innocent". Possible world B contains the statements "God exists" and "God loves the suffering of the innocent". Now regardless of which world is the true one, if any (another possible world contains the statement "God does not exist"), is there anything inherently contradictory about the statements in possible world B?

    If so, then God is necessarily good, and thus good is a logically preexisting concept by which God is defined.

    However, if there is nothing inherently contradictory about possible world B, then God can be said to define good and evil. But the point here is that good and evil are now totally arbitrary, and if possible world B was in fact true, then the suffering of the innocent would be good.
  3. I am saying, Stu, that if you start from the point...

    by JON on 22 NOVEMBER 2006 at 1:21PM
    I am saying, Stu, that if you start from the point of trying to understand the Christian God, the one revealed in Jesus and communicated in the Bible, you must either accept that when God says "Is there any God besides me? No..." (eg Isiah 44:8 and others) we either take it at face value or we can accept nothing that God says about Himself and nothing that is recorded in the Bible. To do that is to decide that all of Christianity is flawed, un-trustable and not worthy of this discussion.

    Our knowledge of other qualities of God depend on Him being trustable. In terms of us knowing God and finding out about Him, we must have some seed of faith, else we can trust nothing that is said and nothing can convince us otherwise. We are bound to run into illogicalities if we try to investigate a God whose own words we cannot accept as truth, let alone the assertions of his followers.

    The necessity is in the terms of our investigation: if we're looking at Christianity we must accept that the Christian view is that God's description of Himself in the Bible is true, in fact that the description of God by people in the Bible is true (unless it is obvious from context that they are wrong or do not in fact trust God themselves). To do otherwise is to to presuppose that Christianity is wrong.

    I'm sure you will say that this leaves nothing to philosophize over: possibly not - the Bible does not question whether God exists or whether He is good; it takes it as a starting point. We can go from there to think about whether morality is objective, or whether the constructs 2000 years of church have built on top of scripture are consistent. Those are questions we can definitely tackle.
  4. Hmm. Jon, I'm intrigued by the phrase "If God is ...

    by STU SHERWIN on 20 NOVEMBER 2006 at 11:09PM
    Hmm. Jon, I'm intrigued by the phrase "If God is actually God in any meaningful way there can be no other God". What do you mean when you say "there can be no other God"? Are you saying that God must of necessity have the particular attributes you ascribe to him? This is exactly the same as saying that God's nature is necessary. In what sense, other than a logical one, could that phrase have any meaning?

    "There can be no other God." Why not? Just because you say so? Just because that's the type of God that appeals to you? Or because there's a deeper underlying logical reason why this is so? Something along the lines of "If God exists, he must be X, Y and Z, as these are entailed by the definition of God. If God were not X, Y and Z, he would not be God"? This is a logical argument.

    There is circular reasoning going on here. You are on the one hand arguing that God necessarily has the attributes he does, i.e. it is logically impossible for God to be other than you define, and in the same breath you are saying that God created logic, or that logic is dependent on God in some way.
  5. Chris - Can I point you please to Psalm 14 v 1.<br...

    by TIM on 20 NOVEMBER 2006 at 1:27PM
    Chris - Can I point you please to Psalm 14 v 1.
    The fool hath said in his heart, "There is no God"
  6. One fact cannot be denied by the apologists: not '...

    by ANONYMOUS on 18 NOVEMBER 2006 at 3:17PM
    One fact cannot be denied by the apologists: not 'sinning' is selfish. christianity is cloaked in altruism but every 'good' act or infidel converted brings the christian closer to their personal reward. That's the bottom line. 'Accept Jesus and go to heaven.' 'Feed the poor and go to heaven.'

    I believe that morality is relative but it is in our species best interest to generally get along.
  7. The assumption that there is a god is the initial ...

    by CHRIS on 16 NOVEMBER 2006 at 7:21PM
    The assumption that there is a god is the initial fallacy. An imaginary friend is still imaginary no matter how comforting his "presence" may be. There is no evidence for the existence of god, or for his continued interest in us. So-called "holy" texts are all internally inconsistent and sanction some pretty horrible behaviour.

    Let's face it, if the biblical god is so damn insecure that he needed human sacrifice, dictated diets, and essentially said,"Do what I say, or else", then he isn't god, just a different life-form in need of psychiatric counselling. To think that such a creature is held up as the arbiter of right and wrong is laughable, if it wasn't so damn tragic.
  8. Hi, I saw your post in infidel guy's site and thou...

    by MARGOT on 16 NOVEMBER 2006 at 2:39AM
    Hi, I saw your post in infidel guy's site and thought you might like to take a look at this site
    In particular, check out the FAQ on the front page. I know it's a lot of reading but if you start at the beginning, you'll be hooked...
  9. Is it logical to discuss a universe where there is...

    by JON on 13 NOVEMBER 2006 at 10:11AM
    Is it logical to discuss a universe where there is another "supreme being"? If God is actually God in any meaningful way there can be no other God. If there can be no other God than ours, surely it is illogical to use logic to try to imagine a universe with a different type of God?

    And that is only if we accept that logic can be extended out of its created habitat, our universe. If God created logic, its scope is limited to the boundaries of creation. That is not to say it has no place in understanding Gods interactions with humans - God often chooses to be bound by His creation, as supremely evidenced by Jesus. It does mean that we must recognise that there are logical oppositions in the very fact of Gods "otherness" and different character to the universe we know. For example, the classic poser of whether God can create the rock that is too heavy for Him to lift, as I mentioned before.
  10. So let's get this straight Jon, you are saying tha...

    by STU SHERWIN on 11 NOVEMBER 2006 at 1:43PM
    So let's get this straight Jon, you are saying that morality is not objective but in some way contingent on the nature of God? So that what is good and what is evil are defined by the nature of God and not by some pre-existing (in a logical sense) definition of morality?

    But then we come to the question of whether the moral nature of God is contingent or necessary. Is it logically possible for the moral nature of God to be such that the unnecessary suffering of the innocent would be defined as good? If the moral nature of God is contingent, then there would be a possible (logical) world in which God delighted in suffering and in which our aim would be to help God in maximising suffering in the world.

    If this is so, then why does God have the particular moral nature that he has? We cannot say that the moral nature of God has to be the way it is, because the premise is that his moral nature is contingent. The conclusion must be that good and evil are arbitrary, in the sense that had we wound with a God with a different nature, they would have different definitions. Don't you see that this is in fact the same as moral relativism, albeit at a logical level rather than a cultural one. The only reason we should try to do good is not for its own sake (this is meaningless if good and evil are arbitrary), but because those actions merit the approval of the particular God we happened to wind up under.

    Now I suspect that you won't like that conclusion, so let's look at the other line of argument: God's moral nature is not in fact contingent, but necessary. God does not desire the unnecessary suffering of the innocent because God is perfect, and a perfect being must not desire the unnecessary suffering of the innocent. Why? Because to desire the unnecessary suffering of the innocent is evil, and a perfect being cannot be evil. Thus perfection is already defined in terms of good and evil, and God, rather than defining good, is defined by it, in the sense that if he were not good, he would not be God.
  11. I think that objectivity and subjectivity get us t...

    by JON on 10 NOVEMBER 2006 at 4:18PM
    I think that objectivity and subjectivity get us tied up in knots when we try to use them in reference to God. God is (by definition) bigger and greater that this universe. The use of God as a subject in a discussion about morality is almost nonsensical and leads to absurd situations, for example, proving that wrong-doing (or "sins") do not exist.

    Let us consider that morality is totally subjective; i.e. morality is different from different subjective viewpoints, dependent on the culture, location and conditioning of the subject. Hence, what is morally right/wrong/ambiguous would be different for me and for you. Or, for example different for me and for God as another subjective observer. If God and I have different moral codes because of our different experiences, it would be illogical to think breaking His Law could be taken as an offense that breaks relationship with Him.

    However, to say that God cannot control what is right and wrong is like saying that God cannot control what is light or dark: God defines good, God defines Light. It is part of his being, it is part of the way he is represented in our Universe. To suggest He cannot control (or "decide it" it is to suggest He is unable to change His unchanging being. "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?"

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