Is God a valid source of objectivity?

13 posts / 0 new
Last post
williampeers's picture
Is God a valid source of objectivity?

It is often claimed by theists that without God (abrahamic God, choose any definition you want when responding) there is no objective value to human life, or there are no objective morals. But I'd like to suggest, that even with God there is no objective value or morality.

Why is God not just the most powerful subjective agent in existance? The most common idea I've seen is that humans have value because we are loves by God, but it is never coupled with a reason why God's love is a source of objective value. What if I just don't give a shit about what God loves, wants, or thinks (permissing slavery does not incline me to care)?

I also hear that God created us, and so it is moral to do what he wants/what we were designed for. What if we discover that we are actually created by a deceptive demon, and it wants us to commit what we would view as atrocities? Would these atrocities become moral?

Its often assumed that God is a source of objectivity and thiests put it on atheists to show how we can make any objective claims without God. But I think we are in exactly the same boat when it comes to objectivity, and our lack thereof. And in my opinion it is not a terrible boat to be in.

I struggle to fully explain why I disagree, but really the burden of proof is again on theists. They claim their God is a source of objectivity, and I have not been given a good argument why. If you are aware of any even half good arguments please share them I'd be interested to know. Or better yet if you think God is a valid source of objectivity please provide your reasoning.

Subscription Note: 

Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.

Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.

Cognostic's picture
@Denver: The question makes

@Denver: The question makes no sense. Atheists do not believe in a god or gods, so to begin with you will have to define the god you are speaking of. Next, and should you be stupid enough to select any of the versions of the God of the Bible, you would look like a raging lunatic. That god is the most amoral bastard ever invented by a religion.

I don't think you need to move up the chain to disqualifying the God claims of Christians when the God itself can be easily rejected with or without being the source of all morality.

williampeers's picture
I've edited it to be the

I've edited it to be the abrahamic God, and I agree he is incredibly immoral. I know the claim that God exists can be easily rejected. Im not trying to disprove God, im taling about objective morality. This is a philosohical question, surely you can see that. If the question doesnt interest you then move on, you dont have to engage.

Cognostic's picture
Denver: Which God? Nothing

Denver: Which God? Nothing OBJECTIVE at all with the god of the Bible. If you think there is. please cite an instance of it that the very same god does not violate.

For morality to be objective, moral propositions such as "Killing is bad","Stealing is bad", etc... must be true in all cases. This is not, nor has it ever been the case. This is only possible when an agreed upon goal has been clearly stated. This is why the modern version of "Objective Morality" is based on "Well Being." There is no basis for an objectively moral god other than divine command theory. (Anything God does is moral.) This justifies slavery, rape, incest, murder, and all manner of butchery.

Finally: I don't think you are actually looking for a response to "Objective Morality." When you bring God into the mix, you are attempting to clarify "Absolute Morality" not "Objective Morality." Morality can be objective within an agreed upon context. Absolute Morality is always the same and generally dictated by a god which makes it highly immoral.

Adrian's picture
Something has to consciously

Something has to consciously exist in order to give life objective value or purpose else it would all be random and meaningless. In the absence of God or gods the meaningful purpose giver/s will just have to be ourselves so that's not a problem. As far as God is concerned that just seems to be an extension of yourself and when you pray to God you are talking to yourself. So in a way the God people profess to believe in and pray to does objectively exist and he/she does listen to believers prayers seeing as they are their own God and they're listening to their own prayers. This also explains why believers get offended if you attack their God seeing as you're attacking them directly.

williampeers's picture
To answer the question "Is

To answer the question "Is God a valid source of objectivity" you have to be able to make the assumption that God exists, for the sake of argument. This question is not about existence or reality, it is hypothetical.

Nyarlathotep's picture
When the believers (of the

When the believers (of the same denomination for starters) agree on what they think god wants; then it MIGHT be objective.

Adrian's picture
God generally wants what the

God generally wants what the person who believes in the God in question wants. Even if there is a specific Holy Text that states something to the contrary just reinterpret a certain way to make it mean something entirely different. You will moderate or secularised Muslims are particularly adept at doing this with the Quran (Though Christians can be skilled at this with certain parts of the Bible particularly the Old Testament). A fundamentalist Muslim will just follow the Quran word for word by the letter no messing about, they won't give you spiel about the historical social context.

williampeers's picture
I'm sorry but how is this

I'm sorry but how is this relevant?

Adrian's picture
God would technically

God would technically objectively exist if the God in question is literally a collective extension of the people who believe in him rather than a separate supernatural entity out there who made the universe and sent us prophets and/or sacrificed his begotten (but not made) son and all that business. It nullifies the philosophical issue by making God and humanity one and the same thing.

Sheldon's picture
"I'd like to suggest, that

"I'd like to suggest, that even with God there is no objective value or morality."

And you would be right, as this presupposes the existence of a deity without demonstrating any objective evidence. It strike me as very circular reasoning. I have asked theists repeatedly to offer some objectively moral actions or behaviours, and they always fail to do so. Even if you presuppose a deity that was perfectly moral, how would we know this was the case? If we simply assert it as theists do, then how does this subjective assertion infer or produce objective morality? We either have the ability to know what is objectively moral or we do not, if we do then we don't a deity to tell us what is objectively moral, if we don't then we would be unable to recognise objective morality in a deity anyway.

David Killens's picture


"They claim their God is a source of objectivity, and I have not been given a good argument why."

Because they don't have to think things through. They just follow the rules blindly, just like those who were found guilty of crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg trials. Additionally, they do not have to take ownership of their decisions and actions, claiming "jesus told me to do it", or "the devil did it". Pass the buck.

Calilasseia's picture
Indeed, whenever I see

Indeed, whenever I see supernaturalists peddling this piece of apologetic nonsense, the end result usually translates into:

Objective Morality = Magic Man Says So

which is about as "objective" as the palatability of Marmite.

Quite simply, anyone who actually bothers to study ethics as a discipline in its own right, quickly learns that all the ethical systems generated by humans (including those purportedly arising from a mythological magic man) depend upon choices of axioms. Whether your preferred ethical system of choice is deontological, consequential or utilitarian, each of these arises from a choice of axioms.

Perhaps the most duplicitous expression of the requisite apologetics, comes from the "divine command theory" brigade, who effectively assert that "Magic Man says so" is an imperative demanding unquestioning obedience, even when Magic Man orders two entirely contradictory actions in quick succession. Which is a venomously dangerous assertion, not least because the only source of purported "data" on this matter, comes from those who assert that they have a special hot line to said magic man. Susan B. Anthony's aphorism comes into play at this point, and frequently in a manner that brings the malignancy of the "divine command" assertion into sharp relief.

One of the most notorious exponents of "divine command theory" is William Lane Craig, whose apologia for genocide on these grounds is particularly nauseating to observe. Indeed, at least one properly tenured philosopher of religion regards Craig's position as flawed, even dangerous. The full citation for that paper, in the interests of honest discourse, is:

God And The Ontological Foundation Of Morality by Wes Morriston, Religious Studies, Volume 48, Issue 1, March 2012 , pp. 15-34 DOI: 10.1017/S0034412510000740 [Full paper is a free download from the journal via this link]

Morriston opens his paper with:

I have three principal aims in this article. The first is to interpret and clarify Craig’s account of the ontological foundation of morality.[2] The second is to press an important objection to that account. The third is to expose the weakness of Craig’s arguments for saying that in a Godless world morality would be groundless and illusory. If these arguments are as weak as I believe them to be, then Craig has yet to give anyone who is not already a theist a reason to adopt his account of the foundations of morality. And if my objection to Craig’s account of the relationship between God and morality holds up, then theists and non-theists alike have a strong reason to reject it.

As an example of critique of the requisite assertions, Morriston presents the following objection that has been presented by past authors (emphases mine):

Either God has good reasons for his commands or he does not. If he does, then those reasons (and not God’s commands) are the ultimate ground of moral obligation. If he does not have good reasons, then his commands are completely arbitrary and may be disregarded. Either way, the divine command theory is false.

However, in order to deal with Craig's well-known elisions and shell games, Morriston goes deeper, as the paper reveals to anyone who reads it. At the end, a nice stiletto thrust is provided by the following:

The first is simply to deny that duties must be constituted by commands in order to have imperative force. There are, after all, lots of normative laws that do not require a lawmaker. If, for example, you know that two propositions are inconsistent with one another, and you also know that one of them is true, then you should not accept the other.[25] Nobody thinks we need a ‘divine command’ to back up this rule. I see no reason why it should be different for moral rules. If this is right, then the way is open for the non-theist to say that basic moral duties are fundamental moral facts and (like moral values) require no further foundation or ground.

But suppose something further is desired. Here is another option. It is a variant of the ideal spectator theory. Even an atheist might consistently identify duties with commands that would be given by a perfect being. That might not settle every question we’d like have settled; but it would certainly make it a duty not to kill or steal or practise cruelty. Interestingly, such an account fits nicely with Craig’s claim that God’s commands ‘flow necessarily from’ his perfect moral nature. Even by his lights, there must be a fact of the matter about what a being possessing a perfect moral nature would command if there were such a being. Once again, it turns out that the actual existence of God makes no difference to the ontological foundation of morality.

In conclusion, then, neither of Craig’s two theses holds up. T1 may be true, but only in a trivial way. For all we’ve been shown, morality has whatever foundation it requires whether or not God exists – in which case, of course, it has whatever foundation it requires if God does exist. On the other hand, T2 (and, of course, itssubjunctive sibling) appears to be straightforwardly false. A Godless universe could contain loving and just persons, and if it did they would still be morally good. It might contain acts of cruelty, and if it did those acts would still be morally wrong. Neither moral value nor moral duty need be illusory in a Godless universe.[26]

I suspect several here will enjoy reading that paper in full.

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.