A brief attack on the moral argument

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Aposteriori unum's picture
A brief attack on the moral argument

Morality. The all but inevitable subject when debating an apologist. They continually claim that objective moral values cannot exist without a god. Okay. Why not? I would argue that objective moral values don't exist.

Okay, so you don't expect me to just say the same things that other people say... You expect me to give logical reasons why. Well, I'm here to do just that.

The moral argument for the existence of god goes like this:

1)If god does not exist then moral objective values do not exist.
2) moral objective values do exist.
3) therefore god exists.

The first logical fallacy is begging the question. It may be tough to spot, but it's in premise number one. Note that the wording is not: if objective moral values exist then god exists. But rather if they don't then god doesn't. Then they go on to assume that objective moral values do exist. And I would also reject that premise based on the fact that that had not been demonstrated. So... We can grant them the first one of we want, and ignore the fallacy within. What do you mean by objective? If you mean that moral values are set by god then god can change them if he so wishes... But that would be subjective. Subjective in respect to god. But if there was a standard beyond god that he could not change... Then he wouldn't be necessary. However that would mean that all of us would draw the same conclusions about every moral decision we ever made?

So if both your dog and your neighbor that you hate were drowning in a pool and you could only save one of them... Who would you save? Do you value human life more than a dog's life? Do you value your dog more than your neighbor that you hate? I doubt all the answers to this would be the same. But I have more...

Is it not true that societies have deemed certain things morally okay at one time and then later changed? Slavery in America... How is that objective?

So the apologists would go back to the idea that good changed his standard... Wait... How is that objective? Unless you define objective as:pretty much universal but still able to be changed and still subject to the opinion of different people... It's not objective. So there's the major problem with the argument. And that's ignoring the fallacy of premise one.

If anyone would like a little more detail than this just ask and I will provide it as soon as possible. I'm sorry I can't do the most detailed epistemological analysis at the moment, but just the same, I think I made my point. However, in short controlled bursts I can still go much further of you wish.

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chimp3's picture
I keep this argument simple.

I keep this argument simple. Everything ever attributed to a deity is of the human imagination. Including the argument from morality.

Sushisnake's picture
I agree objective morality

I agree objective morality doesn't exist, but theists have two favourite things to pull out of the box to argue it does - murder and rape. I can argue murder is morally subjective convincingly ( bless you, trolley problem :- ), but rape? Nah. Fresh out of ideas there. Might be my gender, too, since I'm female and we're the majority of rape victims. Any thoughts?

Aposteriori unum's picture


Rape is a fantastic example of something that is almost 100 percent agreed upon. But there are two things about it that do not work in favor of objective morality.

One: let's say that the consensus about rape was 100 percent... Absolutely everyone agrees it is wrong. That is only one action out of many possible immoral actions. And the rest do not have such a strong consensus. You might make that case that rape is objectively wrong at that point, but what about morality? One action that we all agree upon does not change the rest that we don't.

Two: some animals rape each other. I would say that praying mantis males rape the females every time. Is what they are doing wrong? That is how they help their genes survive. Or how the genes influence their survival machines to help them survive. And... Do we bat an eye when other animals do it? We usually say; that's part of their nature. So either their nature is morally wrong or it is subjective... What is right or wrong. Do humans set the standards for all animals? I think not.

I hope that helps a little to see how morality is, in fact, not objective....

Sushisnake's picture
@Apost U

@Apost U
It did indeed! Thank you. That's going in the tool box.

algebe's picture
Rape, murder, and torture

Rape, murder, and torture were not only morally acceptable but morally mandated for orthodox Serbians in the Bosnian War. The Catholic church was directly involved in murder and massacre in Rwanda.

Apparently the Christian concept of "objective morality" can be applied quite flexibly in times of conflict, from the Crusades to Rwanda and Bosnia.

I find rape and murder absolutely unacceptable in any circumstances, but I'm just an amoral atheist.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Murder and Rape are not only

Murder and Rape are not only condoned in the bible and q'uran but actively encouraged in many sections of both.
The penalties for numerous social infractions are punishable by community stoning or rape..nowadays that kind of vigilante justice even for actual criminal acts is condemned by secular society.
It is still prevalent in those communities that practice sharia and mosaic law. Nowadays of course it is exclusively used against women and occasionally LGBTQ people.

For any theist to claim subjective or objective morality is nonsense.

Aposteriori unum's picture
@old man

@old man

Absolutely. That's part of the hypocrisy of the claim. Moreover... If morality was objective and they say that x was once good and now it's not... How is that objective? Oh well, god changed it... Well then I'd say you need to look up the definition of objective. Well actually this concept is in the op. Long story short: you're right.

You can't have a god that is unchanging and that changes at the same time...

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Now I'm stoked...

Now I'm stoked...

algebe's picture
Aposteriori Unum: "You can't

Aposteriori Unum: "You can't have a god that is unchanging and that changes at the same time..."

You can with Doublethink. "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

Religion is "1984" in practice. Objective is subjective. Unchanging changes.

algebe's picture
In India village elders often

In India village elders often sentence young women to be gang-raped for violations of Hindu marriage and caste rules.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
Agreed Algebe, Hindus and

Agreed Algebe, Hindus and several other animist religions should have been included in my penultimate sentence. Thankyou.

Sheldon's picture
"They continually claim that

"They continually claim that objective moral values cannot exist without a god."

They also fail to notice that this is just their subjective opinion. Why are so many believers irony impaired? Blindly following doctrine and dogma is not morality, at best such people are amoral. Also ask them how they know that statement is true, if they can't make objective moral evaluations how do they know what is in their archaic books is moral at all?

jonthecatholic's picture
I think the idea of objective

I think the idea of objective morality is lost here. Objective morality dictates that certain actions are moral or immoral regardless if there is a consensus. (ie, rape is always wrong regardless if the culture thinks it’s acceptable)

If someone in any time or place rapes someone, we can say that that act was wrong. Whether they knew it was wrong, whether it was acceptable during their time, whether they thing it was the woman’s fault.

There doesn’t need to be a consensus for objective morality. What does need a consensus is a secular law. Distinguish between these two.

Sheldon's picture
" Objective morality dictates

" Objective morality dictates that certain actions are moral or immoral regardless if there is a consensus."

If is truly objective it would necessarily produce a consensus. Do all humans thinks rape and murder are wrong? Yet it'd be pretty hard for humans to believe these acts were not pernicious. Contemplate being raped or murdered yourself for a moment and objectivity is suddenly less illusive, so a subjective claim has objective reasons behind it. Not everyone bases their morality on maximising the well being of others, but they can usually see which actions are more likely to do this and which not.

"If someone in any time or place rapes someone, we can say that that act was wrong."

I agree, but it is still only a subjective opinion. In order to make a moral evaluation I'd need to explain WHY I thought it was wrong. Now rape is a pernicious and deeply cruel act of violence that causes lasting emotional trauma to the victim, and these are not subjective claims. So in condemning (subjectively) the act of rape as immoral we are in fact making objective claims, and we are implying that our morals are linked to human physical and emotional well being, though this is again a subjective basis, we can make objective moral assessments once we accept it as a good basis for human morality.

So why do you think rape is "wrong" or immoral? If is simply because you believe you are commanded to do so then that is an amoral decision. What if your deity commanded rape was moral, what then?

"There doesn’t need to be a consensus for objective morality. What does need a consensus is a secular law. Distinguish between these two."

Why would there be? There are certainly behaviours so pernicious that all human societies, including those that predate modern monotheistic religions had moratoriums on them, things like rape and murder for example. The problem is that religions don't say rape is wrong, not one of the ten commandments for instance mentions rape or child abuse. In bronze age patriarchal societies this is hardly surprising, but from a deity purported to be perfectly merciful it's impossible for me to rationally accept as true.

jonthecatholic's picture
Actually, if objective

Actually, if objective morality exists, a consensus wouldn’t necessarily follow. A consensus would NATURALLY follow but not NECESSARILY follow. As a a consensus naturally changes with time. Saying morality is objective means it doesn’t change.

For example, there was a time when the consensus was the sun moved around the earth. That doesn’t make it true then.

When you say the 10 commandments don’t include rape. Well, that’s because there are only 10 of them. Rape would fall under adultery so I disagree with you on that point.

Question, do you agree or disagree with me that objective moral values exist?

Nyarlathotep's picture
JoC - Saying morality is

JoC - Saying morality is objective means it doesn’t change.

Well presumably you believe biblical morality is objective. Therefore it must not have changed. Therefore the Old Testament moral rules were not changed by Jesus. Therefore working on the Sabbath is still a sin (presumably punishable by death).

jonthecatholic's picture
Question. Are the rules on

Question. Are the rules on working on the Sabbath, not eating pork, etc, MORAL laws or customary laws?

Let's put it this way. My mom gave me two rules as a child:
Respect your elders.
Always hold her hand when crossing the street.

Both rules are good. And they convey truths in a way a child can understand. As I grew up, I need not follow the second rule anymore but I still hold to the first one. The second rule was expressed in a way I could understand as a child but need not be followed as I matured.

The same goes for many of the OT laws. God was dealing with an uncivilized people and so had to be blunt. Most of the laws can actually be traced back to, "Don't mix your belief in God with pagan gods." After the New Testament times, some of those laws still hold while others, we need not follow anymore yet we still need to hold to the truths behind those old laws.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture

"After the New Testament times, some of those laws still hold while others, we need not follow anymore yet we still need to hold to the truths behind those old laws."
So in your opinion the Bible is NOT the inerrant word of God? As it's interpretation changes is it no longer perfect?
Portions of it can be discarded as you see fit?
Are you the final arbiter the CfDotF? Cardinals? The Pope himself?

jonthecatholic's picture
The Bible is still inerrant.

The Bible is still inerrant. We have to look at context. Actually, this distinction between old and new laws can be found in Acts of the Apostles Chapter 15. One of the issues taken up was whether new converts needed to be circumcised as the law required it. Read it if you have time. Check who's speaking with authority on the matter... the first pope.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
But if the morality changes

But if the morality changes it must be subjective...that is the definition. Not objective and God given directly to a human.

You have just admitted that man has the right to change "god's law' as given in person or inspiration to the writers of the bible,,,so which parts are now sacrosanct or even objective?

You really are tying yourself up in knots over this...

When Paul/Saul issued the "no need for circumcision" it was solely because his mission was very successful with women and slaves, but absolutely failing when it came to freemen and the middle class male. His mission to the gentiles required that the circumcision part of conversion be disregarded otherwise Christianity would have become a footnote.

jonthecatholic's picture
The morality never changed.

The morality never changed. The customs changed. For example, The old law states that the Sabbath is to be kept Holy. The new law states that we should keep the Lord's day (Sunday) holy. Same moral law. Different custom. This goes with the theme of the Bible of the old is the new concealed and the new is the old fulfilled.

This is shown in other practices:
Old - Circumcision. New - Baptism
Old - Divorce thru a formal process. New - Divorce is no longer allowed
and the list goes on.

The idea here is that the laws don't change. We change and as we change, we gradually know God's will.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
So customs i.e society

So customs i.e society changed the morals and the old man at the head of the church then legalised it...kind of blows your argument right out of the water JoC. If societal changes alter god's law such as the uncircumcised entering heaven, unbaptised infants bypassing purgatory, remarriage, marriage to those outside the faith, eating pork, horse and shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics, divorcing, and so on, then morality ipso facto becomes subjective.

It is nothing to do with "Revealed Will" that is an argument refuted within the church itself.
"god's laws" have historically been obeyed, enforced and transgressed at the whim of man and are without doubt subjective.

I am not even going to go into your "Sunday" argument that is so risible. Mayhap you should do a bit of research into the the architecture of the early church, the incorporation of the sun motif. The orientation of the Nave and graves. Revealing.

Sushisnake's picture

Oh! So when god commanded all that murder, rape, pillage and enslavement we misunderstood him? When we thought he said "genocide" he actually said
"apologise" to the Amalekites? Got it.

Aposteriori unum's picture
And the one that says you're

And the one that says you're cherry picking is in 2 Timothy... Chapter 3 verse 16.

Two can play bible tag...

jonthecatholic's picture
And? What does this verse say

And? What does this verse say?

Aposteriori unum's picture
2 Timothy 3:16New

2 Timothy 3:16New International Version (NIV)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Sheldon's picture
"The Bible is still inerrant.

"The Bible is still inerrant. We have to look at context."

I'm sorry but you've got be fucking kidding? Unless by "we have to look at context" you mean ignore what it says and imagine something entirely different. And even if this were practical why on earth would anyone believe an omniscient diety would communicate in such a fashion. Do you believe the genesis creation myth is remotely true, let alone inerrant? If so could you briefly outline what you think it means, and demonstrate what objective evidence you have for believing this? In what way is the Noah flood myth inerrant? The entire myth of the Hebrews being enslaved in Egypt along with the plague myths and their flight from Egypt is now widely regarded by archaeology as a complete fabrication, with the best archaeological minds in Israel scouring every inch of sand in the region and beyond for decades to produce one shred of evidence for it, and admitting complete failure. Does inerrant mean something different to Catholics and theists?

The bible is filled with erroneous claims that are axiomatically false myths. The claim of Adam and Eve being the first two humans has been calculated as genetically impossible given the human genetic diversity we now see. The scientific evidence shows that Adam and Eve could not have existed, at least in the way they’re portrayed in the Bible. Genetic data show no evidence of any human bottleneck as small as two people: there are simply too many different kinds of genes around for that to be true. There may have been a couple of “bottlenecks” (reduced population sizes) in the history of our species, but the smallest one not involving recent colonization is a bottleneck of roughly 10,000-15,000 individuals that occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. That’s as small a population as our ancestors had, and—note—it’s not two individuals.

Sky Pilot's picture


It's a true historical fact that Egypt included the Levant are all the way to the Tigris River. Egypt NK edit - Ancient Egypt - Wikipedia

The Israelites didn't leave Egypt; Egypt left the Israelites. The Red Sea marks the traditional eastern border of Egypt. So when it was parted Egyptian control of the Levant was ended.

And remember, in the Adam & Eve story when they are walking around butt naked in the Garden of Eden they were surrounded by such countries as Assyria, Arabia, Ethiopia, and Persia (Genesis 2:10-14). And guess what? Those countries survived Noah's flood without getting a puddle of water.

The King of Tyre lived in the Garden of Eden until the Emperor kicked him out. Ezekiel chapter 28 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+28&version=CEB

Yeshua was described as the last Adam. So where was his Eve and sons?
1 Corinthians 15:44-46 (CEB) = "44 It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body.
If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body. 45 So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person,[a] and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life. 46 But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one—the spiritual body comes afterward."

The biblical stories are meant to show the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:10-28) in action and the consequences of following or disobeying them. Even the Bible says that it's foolish to believe in Jewish fairy tales. Titus 1:14 (CEV) = "14 Don’t pay any attention to any of those senseless Jewish stories and human commands. These are made up by people who won’t obey the truth."

As the Bible says, it's just a story meant to keep people entertained. They didn't have movies in those days.
2 Maccabees 15:38-39 (CEB)= "38 If the story was told effectively, this is what I wanted. But if it was told in a poor and mediocre fashion, this was the best I could do. 39 Just as it is harmful to drink wine or water alone while wine mixed with water is delightful and produces joy, so also may the writing of this story delight the ears of those who encounter this work.

The end."

jonthecatholic's picture
You actually look at context

You actually look at context everyday, Sheldon. It’s something you do unconsciously yet ignore for the Bible.

Take the creation account. On the first day, light was created. But it’s only on the fourth day that the sun, moon and stars are created. Even the ancient people knew that you can’t have a day without the sun and the moon. That’s clue number one that the creation text isn’t to be taken literally.

Second clue. The author of Genesis actually goes thru a pattern. On the first three days, God creates, light, the sea and skies, and land. On the fourth thru sixth days, He creates (in order) things to fill the light (sun, moon, stars), sea and skies (birds and fish) and the land (land animals and man).

So if not literal, how should Christians take Genesis? The creation account in Genesis asserts the idea that God created the entire universe and man as His greatest creation. This opposed to other ancient myths where man came from an accidental spilling of dragon’s blood or what have you.

Also, this isn’t a new idea. What is a new idea, is the idea that Genesis is to be taken literally. That idea is probably 100-200 years old.

Sheldon's picture
So basically it's inerrant,

So basically it's inerrant, as long as you ignore all the obvious errors, and pretend they mean something else, well it's pretty pointless debating with that kind of "reasoning".

You said inerrant, and then list ways in which this particular myth is clearly errant. Then best of all insist it must be wrong on purpose to teach us something. Have you ever heard of Occam's razor?

And I never said it had to be taken literally, did I. The fact that the literal text of this creation myth is absurd laughable nonsense is hardly wasted on me as an atheist, I was responding to your absurd claim that the bible is inerrant. Much of it is errant nonsense, and the fact that such mental gymnastics is required to twist into line with reality says it all really.


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