My Problem With the Moral Argument

One of the most popular arguments for the existence of God is the moral argument. There are a number of different versions of it. Here is one that was recently shared with me on social media:

(1) If God does not exist, then objective morality does not exist.
(2) Objective morality does exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

For some people, this is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for God’s existence.

While I believe in the existence of both God and objective morality, this is not an argument that I generally use. In fact, I consider it one of the weakest arguments for the existence of God.

Now the moral argument is a valid argument, meaning that if all of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. So what’s the problem?

Many atheists have recently gone after the first premise. They seek to find a way to justify objective morality apart from God. I have doubts about this enterprise.

My concern with the moral argument is the second premise: “Objective morality does exist.”

But didn’t I just say that I believe that objective morality exists? Yes, I did. In fact I would agree with everything in the moral argument. But I agree with it because I am a Christian.

Here is where the problem is in terms of using this as an argument for demonstrating the existence of God. It does not demonstrate that objective morality exists, it simply asserts it.

If someone questions the second premise, the conversation usually moves from ethics to rhetoric. This is how these conversations often go:

“I don’t believe in objective morality.”

“Really? So, you’re saying that the Holocaust was okay?”

“No, the Holocaust was a horrible evil.”

“If there is no objective morality, then the evil of the Holocaust is just a matter of personal opinion. It would not be evil from the perspective of the participants.”

“All I know is that based on what I understand about human flourishing, the Holocaust was wrong.”

“But without objective morality, there is a possible world in which gassing and burning Jews was a good thing…”

You see how it goes. It is easy to use the moral argument to make the one denying objective morality look really bad. They might be forced to admit that they think torturing babies for fun is wrong simply as a matter of personal taste.

The most that the moral argument can do is to demonstrate that many people live with the assumption of objective morality, even if they have not thought through the reason for it.

But this is based really on the incredible existential discomfort it would give us if objective morality did not exist. We see morality changing very rapidly in our current culture. Does that mean that we are getting closer to (or farther away) from the absolute measure? Or are tastes just changing?

Is it possible that much of our morality is based on human evolution and what was needed for our survival as a species? Is it possible that much or morality is based on the development of our culture and the impact of interactions with people different from us?

While I believe that objective morality is based on the will of God, that is based on faith. I cannot demonstrate that my view is correct and those other views are incorrect.

We can imagine a world in which morality is not objective. While it may make us uncomfortable, it is no less likely that an objective morality based on God.

I believe in objective morality and I believe in God.

But I believe in objective morality because I believe in God, rather than believing in God because I believe in objective morality.

Some people still find the moral argument convincing and that is great. Personally, I find it to be a good description of how reality works but a poor argument to demonstrate the existence of God.

The post My Problem With the Moral Argument appeared first on Stephen J Bedard.






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