Home > All, God, Philosophy, Religion > A Case Against Objective, Transcendent Morality

A Case Against Objective, Transcendent Morality

Introduction

Do we really need God to give us our morals? No.

Do you disagree? Well, let me provide the evidence necessary to change your opinion.

In this essay, I intend to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that our ideas of morality stem not from some Divine Authority, but are merely value judgments based entirely upon the goals of the society in general.

To be more specific, morality is not an independent idea, something that exists abstractly, either objectively or transcendent to the human species.

Morality is a property of social structure, contingent upon the existence of a society. It is a manifestation of the desires of a group of people; not a Divine Mandate from a god in the sky.

Example By Analogy

Let us take logic, for example. Logic is, of course, a set of rules. But, to be clear, no one “came up with” or “invented” logic. Logic is the expression of a well-structured argument. People have discovered the properties of logic by discovering what makes for a good argument. What are the properties of an argument that can withstand scrutiny? These properties are what make an argument “logical.”

For an argument to be logical, it must obey certain rules. It must be devoid of logical fallacies. One cannot argue from authority, use ad hominem attacks, use post hoc reasoning, etc. These methods do not lead to rational conclusions, simply due to their illogical nature. They aren’t illogical because someone decided that they aren’t. They’re illogical because of their property of being illogical. They don’t possess logical properties.

This could possibly be because they do not deal with the facts and the evidence. Simply and clearly, logical thinking is merely the manifestation of a sound argument. Logic does not exist on its own, independent of the arguments that it governs.

If there were no people debating, making claims or arguing about anything, logic would not exist. Logic is contingent upon the premises and conclusions it governs.

How Does This Apply To Morality?

Morality is to human behavior as logic is to premises and conclusions. Morality is a property of human behavior. We require sound argumentation to have a foundation for reality. For society to exist the way it does, there are certain things that must or must not take place; things which morality governs.

Morality would not exist without humans valuing one behavior over another. To be more specific, morality is an abstract manifestation of the goals of a society or social structure.

This is evident by the fact that there are countless cultures on our planet. Each has their own rites, rituals and ceremonies (morals) which express the values of that particular society.

For example, the ancient Aztecs practiced Cannibalism. American culture views this act as “immoral.” But, for the Aztecs, it was part of their way of life. It expressed the goals of that society. For them, the property of “morality” was associated with Cannibalism; it was contingent upon their values.

Some Islamic cultures punish stealing with the cutting off of the hand. Many cultures view this as immoral. Yet, it is moral and, in fact, just in the eyes of these people to administer this type of punishment.

It all has to do with value judgments. What does one culture value as compared with another?

To reinforce this point, it should be mentioned that a society does not “crumble” if certain morals aren’t followed. It simply becomes a different society with different moral properties. Those who claim that society will crumble are merely afraid of society not valuing what they value any longer.

The Conflict

Conflict arises when one culture believes that it possesses absolute Truth, or that its values take precedence over the values of another culture. When one culture collectively looks down on another culture for not having their same moral values.

This happens prominently in religious circles. Pride is the driving force. Christians and Muslims feel that their view of reality (AKA: their God’s view of reality) takes precedence over the values of any other worldview, and therefore, these “other” worldviews are incorrect. Consequently, these other cultures are deemed to deserve eternal punishment for their difference in value judgments.

God And Morality

When invoking God in the moral argument, there are only 2 paradigms available. Either (a) God is the one who decides what morality is, or (b) morals are transcendent and even God is subject to them.

If one is to adhere to the former idea (a), that God is the ultimate judge of what is moral, then God (the Biblical God) is a hypocrite. The book of Job is a perfect example of this.

What is God’s reason for allowing Satan to bring all of the horrible things described in the Bible to befall Job? It was not for any evil that Job had done.

(Job 1:6-12 KJV)

1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

It is made plain at the very opening of this book that Job had not sinned. Yet, God still allows evil to happen to Job. Why is God doing as Satan asks??

On the other hand, if one was to assume that morality is transcendent, beyond God; that God is subject to this morality, one would have no choice but to deem God as evil. One cannot read about all of the genocide and horrid acts done by the command of God in the Bible and still conclude that these acts are moral in any way, shape or form.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that morality is merely a manifestation of the desires of a group of people. Groups with different desires have different “moralities;” different value judgments.

To claim that one’s values are better or have more Truth value is to impose one’s views upon others. Arrogance in the highest degree.

The Golden Rule is usually a great place to start in considering moral values. But, even the Golden Rule is not universal. Consider the argument ad Hitlerium: would you treat Hitler the way you would want to be treated? Of course not. It would not be moral.

I think the main point I want to make here is that there are no demonstrably universal moral values; values that hold for every person, under every circumstance. And I think this argument strikes a very hard blow to the argument that there are objective or transcendent moral values.

I would only conclude that it’s possible that I’m completely incorrect here, but it would take a lot of convincing. That would mean evidence and logical arguments. In other words, arguments with logical properties. Feel free!

Anyway, read a book. It’s good for you.

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Categories: All, God, Philosophy, Religion
  1. lyallchittleborough
    Friday April 10, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    Good to realise that there are people like you out there who face reality and make their judgments – and I hope, take their actions – on the basis of reason in so far as they can access it. This last proviso is an important one because I suspect that there are often some emotional blocks to the acceptance, recognition and acting upon some of the less palatable facets of any reality.

    I therefore think that it behooves us all to establish solid means of securing our identity, gaining a personal independence that facilitates broader recognition of dimensions of truth that are not immediately evident. To this end, regular nurturing of self is needed. There are many ways in which this can be done constructively and that is a huge subject in itself. Too little is said or done about this area.

    It is an unfortunate fact that institutional religion has gone to some lengths to provide conditional nurturing of its adherents, according them the approval of authority, the support of fellowship, the endorsement of a cultural heritage ONLY in so far as the adherent is conforming to the often illogical perceptions, tenets, and dogma of the institution.

    I think it behooves those of us who stand for Reason, Sweetness and Light to offer each other something of the same support that institutions give their members and if possible to establish solid organisations, authoritative exemplars and warm fellowship in order to sustain the emotional strength that is necessary for anyone who seeks to spit into the fashionable winds of foolishness and fantasy.
    Congratulations on doing your part in this noble endeavor.

    Lyall Chittleborough, Ironbank viva Upper Sturt South Australia 5156

    Where are you from?

    • Friday April 10, 2009 at 12:15 PM

      It is an unfortunate fact that institutional religion has gone to some lengths to provide conditional nurturing of its adherents, according them the approval of authority, the support of fellowship, the endorsement of a cultural heritage ONLY in so far as the adherent is conforming to the often illogical perceptions, tenets, and dogma of the institution.

      I totally agree with you. It’s this conditional nurturing of religion which is so harmful. The collective (or, unfortunately in most cases, the leadership) decides on an interpretation of Scripture, and proceeds from this conclusion to only nurture and cultivate that which they deem to be “Holy” and “Virtuous.”

      In terms of a community whose foundation is, as you say based on “Reason, Sweetness and Light,” I must also agree. At the same time, I’ve noticed even over the past 5 years or so that the Reason-Driven community has been proliferating. We’ve definitely not reached a plateau, and I think most of that is due to the amount of information available to the average person today.

      The internet has been a bane to those who wish to stifle the free exchange of ideas.

      And, finally, I live in New York. United States.

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