Morality and God (simplified this time).

I spend a little time debating on a couple of creationist websites and I’m losing count of the number of times I’ve found myself faced with a statement to the effect:

"Anyway Mangetout, since you deny God, why don’t you just go out and kill children in the streets? there’s no reason why you shouldn’t unless you acknowledge God as the basis of all morality."*

Now I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether you can have an objective morality without basing it on God, or whether there is any such thing as objective at all.

No, my issue is a lot simpler; these statements frighten me because, unless this is always just sloppy thinking at work (and maybe that is all it is after all), what we’re looking at here is a bunch of religious people whose inner mindset consists of something like “I really want to murder, steal and violate, but God won’t like me if I do, so I’d better not”.

In other words the religious person in question would be some kind of psychopath, restrained solely by the fear of being caught in the act and punished.

I never thought I’d say this, but I really hope it is just sloppy thinking on their part.

*[sup](Which is usually really funny, because I don’t)[/sup]

Don’t you just love how your views can be so thoroughly twisted by those who disagree with you? :wink:

In any event, to the OP; I know what you are talking about and it brings up a good point. While I don’t think the people who espouse those viewpoints are secretly wishing they could murder, perhaps they want to get away with other sins-or maybe they are feeling guilty about the sins they’ve already committed and want to take their personal responsibility away.

I can think of another objective standard – I’m participating in a debate on the very subject on this very message board – but I don’t think they’ll like it any better.

I suggest that you just tell them how you feel – that if the only reason they don’t rape, murder, pillage, and burn their way through the world is that they’re worried about being punished, they’re dangerous psychopaths and you’re not sure if you want to associate with them any longer.

It might make them think a little.

This might be an example of sloppy-minded people, poorly expressing a point of view that is actually really interesting. Perhaps your friends are insisting that conscience cannot exist without divine inspiration.

IIRC, CS Lewis argued in Mere Christianity that our is a miraculous sense of what God - who embodies perfect goodness and absolute morality - wants us to do. If you take away God, you necessarily lose a moral true north, and where does that leave your moral compass?

Note that this is not the same as saying that we would all be out eating babies if God didn’t exist. It only means that there would be nothing cosmically wrong with eating babies.

Some of us might still feel that it’s wrong.
IMHO, conscience might be the whisper of God in our ear. But there are other explanations for conscience. I for one feel that it’s no miracle that I’m repulsed by the idea of slaughtering children. Mangetout’s friends, perhaps, feel otherwise… according to some, any goodness in mankind - heart or deed - is proof of the grace of God. It’s a rather dim view of man, but it’s got a long history.


I wonder if you can explain to me what the point of this thread is and what manner of debate you envision. ISTM that you’ve set this up as an opportunity to mock some anonymous people whose viewpoint is being completely represented and possibly caricatured by you.

FWIW, there are many many people who have things that they would like to do but are restrained by the thought that it is immoral. Possibly you yourself are such a moral person that your very desires and emotions are totally guided by moral principles. But there are others who are not at your lofty level, and who sometimes have to force themselves to abstain from activities that they might want to engage in with the thought that it is immoral or unethical. At the most extreme level, this would include killing children, but every person is different. The argument that these people are putting forth is most likely that without a source for morality, a person would engage in every activity that struck his fancy, including possibly killing children.

I don’t agree with this argument. (In short, if morality did not exist without God, then it wouldn’t exist with God either, because the principle that you have to listen to God to begin with must exist independently before God gets to set morality). But the argument that these guys are putting forth does not necessarily imply that they are psychopaths as you suggest.

Of course, it could also be that the particular people that you encountered are in fact psychopaths. There are psychopaths out there, some of whom may be religious. Big deal.

My understanding of the Christian perspective is that it is Man’s nature to sin, and only through Jesus can we be forgiven, transformed, and made holy. One doesn’t necessarily want to steal or murder, but relative to God’s perfect holiness, we all fall short.
Our natural urges and desires are sinful. Every normal person has sexual desires. This is sinful lust and adultery! Everyone gets angry. This is wrath and murder! It is completely impossible to live up to God’s standard apart from the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
That comment is just a warped and perverted way saying that we are all sinners, every single one of us. Everytime I see an attractive woman and get a boner, I’ve sinned, and in God’s view, it is no different than had I raped and killed her.
The only way to cleanse oneself of sin is through Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. Once a person accepts the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, he/she is transformed and begins to desire God’s kingdom instead of sinful worldly pleasures.

God and morality are most definitely not interdependent. Those who claim they are possess room temperature I.Q.s (at best). Look at many peacable Asian cultures that have no concept of God (i.e., Taoism and Zen). Somehow they have survived without God for millennia and have yet to slaughter each other in their sleep.

The desire to portray God as the wellspring of all morality is merely another way of seeking divine authorization for those who are unwilling to completely think through the implications of their own deeds. Such fundamentalism and shortsightedness is a source for much of the world’s evil these days.

IzzyR, I suppose the point of the thread was to sound out my own thoughts on the matter - If I’m just plain wrong, I’d like to know about it and anyone with an alternative explanation could chime in.

There’s certainly nothing ‘lofty’ about my level and I’m sorry if it came over that way.

It might sound like a caricature, but it isn’t (it certainly is an agglomeration of several comments made either to me personally or toward the ‘side’ of the argument I happen to occupy; the latest incidence (today) was worded thus:

but it has appeared previously as


and numerous other examples, not all of which were as eloquent as these.

To the below average Christian, God is guilt, not love.

But the example does contain a truth although stated in its current exagerated-for-effect-as-a-last-dying-effort form it seems absurd and that is that man has a dual nature: animal and higher.

I’m afraid you have :).

The most simple form of the question is: is there a God? If there is a God then since he created man and man’s capacity for morality, all morality is divine. If not, then morality is a purely human construct.

You have to appreciate how faith informs rational argument - once you have accepted the existence of God, everything else follows logically. I would also assert that the person who has faith in God has fewer assumptions about the world than the atheist, placing them on a more even keel. Its a really funny thing, you should experiment with believing in God and see how it affects your views. Put yourself in their shoes.

I’m not so sure; the heart of this particular issue is not so much [whether there is a God], but [whether the honest expression of non/un-belief in God should be to go berserk and kill everyone].

BTW, I do believe in God.

My own Church decries something called the “faith of demons”. That is, it is not enough to merely “believe”–even the demons “believe” in an intellectual sense. Perhaps what you refer to above is the “morality of demons”. If one is only moral from the fear of punishment, then one is not moral at all.

This is just an argument ad absurdum. It’s in the vein of:

“Since you deny [my] God, then you must deny [His] morality, and since morality is the only thing stopping you from doing immoral things [this is the where it breaks] you will ‘go out and kill children in the streets’.”

Fallacy, plain and simple. It assumes that without God, there will be nothing to stop bad behavior.

Oh, except for all those groups that exists to keep people from doing bad things, like the police.

Yes, it is! And don’t pursue the thought any further, because:

This is close to what they’re saying, but in reverse. I wouldn’t present this argument, unless you use it as an example to debunk theirs.

Your understanding of “the Christian perspective” is miserably false. Sexual desire, for example, is not automatically sinful. It is when one decides to misdirect it that sin enters the picture.

Morality is about doing things God’s way. If it is God’s will that I only have sex within the context of marriage, any feelings, thoughts or actions to the contrary is sinful lust.
From a human perspective, we see things very differently from God. God sees everything. We can’t see each other’s thoughts so we tend to judge a person by his/her actions. But if we could see one’s evil thoughts and desires we would be appalled. Would you be comfortable having someone watch your kids if you knew he was having lustful thoughts about children? Of course not!
Just because you can get away with sinful thoughts doesn’t make them ok. Unlike us, God is perfect. Any sin is sin whether small or big. Jefffrey Dahmer might not be as bad as Adolf Hitler, but they both did terrible things. Your sinful desires may not be as bad sinful actions, but they will keep you from God’s presence nevertheless.
Only when you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and hold God’s Will over your own desires will you be able to escape your sinful nature. You won’t necessarily go and kill someone, but your impure thoughts will certainly condemn you.

Juan1203… calm down before your religious “impulses” take over. We are what we are because “He” created us this way. So why act against our nature ? Why create something that is “broken” ?

Chimpanzees most of the time do not kill their “family” or “tribe”… female chimps dont have sex with their brothers. So even they have “morality”. Different cultures on earth have different moralities too. So morality exists with or without God… even Demon worshippers must have “rules” of sorts … and those constitute their morality.

Back to OP... yes some of the "flock" really do think that the atheist mind set means you are unbounded by morals. Its a way of saying there arent any real atheists... since what would hold us back from sinning "fully".  I say the police for starters... :)   I wouldnt mind having sex with a different girl everyday... well at least for a few years... but then even lust subsides and I would be bored sleeping around like that. Would that mean I am less of a sinner since I dont care about sex anymore ? There is no sin but that you carry in your mind.

Even IF the God of the Christian Bible exists, doesn’t Plato’s refutation of the divine command theory of ethics in the Eutyphro pretty much knock him out of any ethical argument?

To paraphrase the argument: if things are moral because God says so, then God is a petty tyrant who arbitrarily enforces his whims upon the human populus; this would delegate ethics to nothing more than “might makes right.” If the converse is true, then morality is beyond God, so why even put him in the equation.

Wow, an opportunity to call one of Plato’s utterances a crock of shite! That’s a rare opportunity, so I’d better seize the moment:

Before we can label anyone a tyrant, it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate that the person we are calling a tyrant has no right to the authority he exerts - no right other than his brute ability to exert it. Such is easily demonstrated for any human tyrant. The world existed before the tyrant was; it will be when the tyrant is no more; the tyrant himself is but a fallible man, as I am, as you are, and as are all his subjects; that which the tyrant seeks to rule exists independently of him and owes him nothing; it was not made by him and does not need an exercise of his good will to continue to exist (except insofar as “forbearing to destroy” constitutes an exercise of his good will).

None of the preceding faults of the tyrant that render him unfit to dictate morality are applicable to God. The analogy is therefore horribly flawed and should be discarded.

How’s that? Do I win a prize?


I don’t see anything in your second or third quote to suggest that the writer might be a psychopath. All the writers are saying is that if your heart should happen to desire some immoral act there will be nothing to prevent you from doing it. Even the first quote is merely a hyperbolic version of the same. There are actually people out there who do “sick evil things” to children, and surely there must be a lot of other people who would want to do them but hold themselves back on moral grounds.

Again, the argument is that for many people there are some acts that they would want to do but restrain themselves on moral grounds. In the absence of any morality people would engage in them. In the course of making this argument people tend to gravitate to the worst examples of what might happen. This is a common feature of people making arguments of any sort. There is nothing in this to suggest that someone making this argument is any different than anyone else in terms of their natural desires.

Well, let’s phrase that another way:

Suppose God is the source of all morality. Nothing is good or evil unless God says so. That being the case, God could very well have said that killing children in the streets is okay. And it would be the right thing to do, because God said so.

“But wait!” you say. “God would never say that!” Well, why not? If there’s nothing compelling him to say that killing children in the streets is wrong, he can say whatever he wants. Morality depends entirely upon his whim.

Unless, of course, there is some reason that killing children in the streets is wrong, and God was just passing that information along. And if that’s the case, then we can figure out the reason without bringing God into it.