To the Faithful: Does Morality Exist Outside of your God?

This question is for anyone who “believes” in a specific god with a specific history. Many such people have presented to me the idea that their god is a moral one. I am aiming generally at Christians here, but any religion whose proponents claim the existence of a moral god would fit in here as well.

My question is, how do you define moral? Is there an ultimate morality as you see it? A set of guidelines to which one’s actions do or do not live up to? A code which exists whether there is a god or not? Or, rather, is morality defined as “whatever god does”.

I asked my religious aunt jjrt recently if there was anything that her god could do which she would consider evil. Her answer was “No.” It seemed to me that she was saying that anything he does should not be considered immoral simply becuase of who he is. He could torture an animal, man, woman, or infant, and simply because of his power, he is beyond being immoral. He could enjoy it, he could be like a child who pulls the wings off a fly, and that would be just fine for him. This is a concept I have some real trouble with.

To further question, is there anything your god could do which would make him unworthy of worship in your eyes? Some Christians here have said they will curse the very god they support now if he turns out to be the hell-fire eternity burning type described by some. They say they read “The Bible” and don’t see him there, but rather they see only a god of love.

I must say, that I wholly disagree with the idea that ANY entity ever can do whatever they want, hurt whoever they want, torture whoever they want, and no matter what, they are still worthy of worship. It seems one trying to convert me must do two things to succeed:

  1. Convince me that the entity is worthy of worship.
  2. Convince me that the entity exists.

Even if you manage to convince me of #2, #1 does not have to be the case. For some it is automatic. I think that convincing me that someone specific created this reality should be a step. The next step becomes deciding whether said creature is worthy of worship.

Is it possible that the creator is (or can be at times) cruel and evil? If such is the case (and was revealed to you) would you then worship out of fear or repercussions? Is worship based in love and respect, or fear? Or both? Must you love the thing you worship?

What if god turns out to be a kid who got a hold of his dad’s universe creator and is abusing it? Someone needs to get control of the kid in this case. That god is the maker of morals and not to be judged by them is one I would have much trouble accepting. I have morals too. Should we not attempt to try and see if the actions of the things we worship conform to our notions of good/evil? Or do you just chalk it up to a “Greater Plan” as a get-out-of-jail free card for seemingly cruel behaivior and stop thinking about it?

DaLovin’ DJ

Sorry I missed your thread, DJ. I’ve been tied up with some Giant Squids.

For me, morality is a decision making process based on what we value. God (my God) values goodness above all else. He could theoretically choose to do evil, but that is not what He values.

I’m sort of wondering if Jjrt understood your question (or if you understood her answer). She might have meant simply that God is not capable of doing evil rather than that even if he did evil, it would be good.

But either way, for me it isn’t a matter of that. Since I define love (spiritual love) as the means by which goodness is conveyed, God would cease being God if he sinned, since sin is the opposite of love (i.e., love is the conveyance of goodness; sin is the severence of goodness). God is Love.

As far as worship, and whether it is based on respect or fear, it is based on truth. Jesus taught, “God is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.”

As far as judging, Jesus taught that neither He nor His Father judges our morality. Rather, we judge ourselves by the standard that He is. If we value goodness, then we are like Him. If we do not, then we have no interest in Him.

dj, I may not be among those to whom you address this question as I’m not even remotely a traditional theist, but I’d like to take a shot at the question.

“Does morality exist outside of God?”

This requires a “yes and no” type of answer, I think.

YES, in the sense that all human morality is a product of human invention. IME, God doesn’t engrave rules of behavior in stone. Only men do that. (It appears to take about 4 man-days --or Moses-days if you prefer-- per commandment. :wink: ) Rather, God values acceptance and respect for all others’ existence. The working out of the moral implications of that single value is a lifetime’s work for all of us, but is also the basis for all moral systems, whether the value is held (as I think it’s intended to be) without any heirarchy of acceptance or respect, or whether there are degrees of acceptance based on man-made criteria. Moral systems need not be based on religious dogma or revelatory experience.

NO in the sense that no moral decisions are contextually “outside of God”. We as moral creatures are independent of God… We as spiritual creatures are just of God. Evil exists in the same context as good, so both are within God’s arena.

As you should. Consider as an alternative that God is the giver of each separate individual existence, and loves all in the same way. While God makes us distinct from each other, he makes no artificial distinctions between us. When we love the same way, and base our moral actions on the same love, we are becoming godly. When we exalt or debase others, we are further from godliness. Judgement is a human decision; as you judge, so are you judged. It is the same action.

There is no such thing as morality apart from the will of God.

It is only the existence of God, as a transcendent Being having inherent value, that can establish morality in any meaningful sense.

Morality, to avoid being arbitrary and therefore meaningless, has to be established on some transcendent basis. If there were no God, and no transcendent basis for morality, any other ground for morality becomes meaningless.

So there is no standard apart from God by which to judge Him. It’s like asking what the universe would be like if 2 + 2 = 5. Reality is what God created, and the Good is that which is in accord with His nature. Since His nature is good, it is meaningless to assert that the Good could be other than what it is.


I love it. 3 responses so far: 1 yes, 1 no, and 1 yes & no (maybe).

This seems to be one position. The answer being Yes. Morality is morality. It exists and god could be evil but chooses not to. This seems reasonable (although how you got your information about what “God” does and feels - chooses goodness- is still suspect, we’ll take it as a given for the sake of discussion). The words have use now. They are used to evaluate everything, including that which made their very existence possible.

This is a No. So only what this intelligent entity chooses to do can define good. So whatever it does, that is good. The word becomes meaningless. He could lie, decieve, and torture us, but since that is what he chooses to do, it is good and moral to do such things.

“Goodness” and “morality” are meaningless unless something gives it meaning. I would agree. But why must the ultimate definition of morality be the one chosen by the entity that created the Universe we live in? Why does it require a certain ability (able to create matter) or that whoever is the most powerful gets to decide whats good? So how many levels do we have to go up before it gets absolute? Who created the creator? What if, there is no creator? What if there are many! What if the laws of reality are actually blind and creation is kick started by no “being”? Now it becomes the job of the most advanced intelligence to decide? So we decide what is good, unless we find someone smarter, and then decide that what they said is what must be good and moral becuase they are smarter and stronger than us? Faulty thinking, it seems to me.

I think it is just as possible that an “evil” god exists as a “good” one. I think these words are human constructs, and we invented and use them for a reason. I know that the actions of any being are up for evaluation and judgement on my part before being awarded with anything like worship. On one hand, it seems like you’ve got the camp that says “Look how strong he is, bow and like whatever he does or pay the price!” while the other says “Right is right, and if I find out he lied to me I won’t respect him in the morning of the afterlife”. The former seems a cowardly (but perhaps wise) position to take, while the latter seems to uphold dignity and give value to the perspective afforded to us by living, breathing, suffering and ultimately expeierncing death. The thing is, the latter really requires that you compare the actions of your object of worship against your own moral code. It is in this part of the thought process that the question of whether to worship “god” should he/she/it exist, becomes tough, given the horrible things allowed to go on in our world.

Now, the scope and power of the “god” will have to be a factor in the call. If the ultimate creator was only able to start the process, and does not control it, has limited resources, and can only interfere in limited ways, then he has an excuse. “Hey, it is better than nothing, no?” “I can’t be everywhere, ya know!”. My response may be “Wow, it really is beautiful in ways, but there are quite afew fucked up things. How about a hand? Maybe we can help make it better with you!”.

But if you convince me that your god exists, and is all powerful, and all knowing, and yet he still alllows pain, war, disease, and suffering, then I must say, from where I am standing, he does not deserve worship. He needs to learn, perhaps from the tale of the good samaritan, about helping people when you have the chance.

So I guess the uber question, and one that has been asked before, is if god is good and all powerful, and reality is as cruell as it is, then why worship this god other then fear? I would rather stop him then fear him. Let someone who will use their power to relieve the pain and suffering have that limitless power instead. We are coming after that power either way. Wether someone yields it now or not, humans are striving to end pain, and disease, and death, and suffering, and cruelty. We do better some days then others, but to try is the only choice that is moral IMO.

If god won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves.

DaLovin’ Dj

Well, no.

God isn’t/doesn’t arbitrarily choose some standard and make that Good. Good is that which is in accordance with the Ultimate Reality which is God.

Good is what it is because God is what He is. There is nothing arbitrary about it.

I suppose you could ask if God was able to change His nature, and thereby change the Good to something else, but I don’t think we have the capability to discuss this. It is like asking, “What would the world be like if there were no cause and effect?” A complete change even in the fundamentals of how we view reality means that we can’t even think about it.

“Imagine a world where there were no hypotheticals.”

Again, not exactly.

When we say that God created the universe, we mean (at least I mean) something more fundamental than Him lighting the fuse on the Big Bang firecracker. God created the laws of nature, as well as nature itself, and time, and space, and everything that we take for granted as the backdrop against which reality operates. God is not constrained by any of that. He exists outside time, so He is not limited by duration, and outside space, so He is present everywhere. This is why I am not a pantheist - it is too limited a view of God to say that He is the sum of the universe - or even the sum of reality.

Which is why I think it a mistake to say that we can judge God by some standard of morality. He is the standard; to postulate some standard above or apart from Him is to start a discussion by saying, “Assuming that if A, then not-A…”