The Believer in God has a Dilemma regarding how Morality is truly Moral

What gives morality, fair and loving human behaviour, authority and makes it obligatory? Religion "answers" God.
This study is not concerned about what system of ethics is good - eg Utilitarianism or Situationism or whatever. These systems do not deny that morality exists but they just disagree on how to work out what is moral.
We will use good as shorthand for moral good and evil as shorthand for moral evil.
God commands good.
There are two questions that arise. 
First question. Does he command it because it is good and he recognises it as good? Some say yes. That view implies that good would be good whether God recognises it as such or not and whether he commands it or not. Commonsense supports this idea. We know what is enjoyable is good.  To say that you need God to decree that something is good implies that you cannot say a cake is nice unless God commands you to find it nice.  That is insane.

Second question. Is good good because God commands it? Then abusing babies is bad when God does not command it and good when he does!  Does something evil and cruel become right simply because God commands it? If the answer is yes then he invents good and has the power to make raping babies for no reason good. This view teaches that if God wanted a baby tortured to death for mere fun it would be right to please him and do so. That a person would even consider such a view and it is put forward for consideration by the religions speaks volumes! Anyway what is the view saying? It is saying that good has nothing to do with what is best but doing what God wants. This view, called the divine command theory, is against commonsense and if belief in God requires it, belief in God is evil.


The notion that God makes things good by commanding them is called Divine Command.


Divine command has us holding that there is no real morality but we just pretend that God’s wishes are morality. This belief has been the prevailing view in Christianity.


It is supported by the Bible which says God has the right to order us to stone homosexuals to death even for one harmless sin! And the Bible has Jesus being blamed by God for our sins and punished so we can go free. Many believers do not realise they accept it and others do but pretend they do not. It is merely a form of religious moral relativism.


If God has no reason to command one to abstain from child molestation the result will be a morality that actually encourages us to abuse children. 


And if God is merciful and we hurt children wrongly thinking we have his permission or even his blessing we will get away with it.  The morality is too fragile and thin to do any good.


Despite itself the doctrine of divine command makes the individual live and act as if he or she is God and then he or she blames God for the commands.


So is morality from God or not?  We are in a dilemma.  The Church comes to the rescue.


The unhelpful solution


Religion says we are wrong to say morality is the standard whether God knows it or likes it or not.  And that we are wrong to argue that something becomes just and fair and good because God says it is.  It dismisses the dilemma.


They come up with the suggestion that justice and love are God.  They are his nature.  They are right because of God's nature and not because he commands them.  He does not invent morality but is it.


This "answer" says that both prongs of the dilemma are wrong.  If there is a lie or trick there that is carried over into it.  It is there between the lines.  If the answer has to lie about a prong then we win the argument.  God and morality are not only not bedfellows but enemies. 


A distortion of a prong wrecks the answer.  It makes the answer immoral.  So it is not an answer at all!


Let us go back to the prongs.


Take a closer look.  You say, "morality is independent of God" and they say, "It is God and is not independent." That is just a paraphrase of, "You are wrong to say morality is independent of God."  It is a trick for a mere denial is not an argument.


You say, "Your morality is whatever your God wants it to be!"  They should say that they are the ones who want God's morality to be invented.  They hope it is invented in the way that pleases them.


When they say that "God's nature is where morality comes from.  He decides what commands reflect it best.  God is just and loving by nature. So morality is not an authority over God or invented by him but it comes from him."  So it agrees with both prongs and claims to reconcile them. 


So God wants actions to be moral and other ones to be immoral because it is his nature.  This is splitting hairs.  If morality needs inventing it will need it whether it is God's nature or not.


Who says the nature is good and just and loving in the first place?  The argument itself is a trick and is hardly a good endorsement of morality then.


We should have no problem with the idea of an act being for the best and therefore right whether God likes it or agrees with it or not.  Morality is clearly anti-God.


We should have a problem with the idea that something is only good if God says so regardless of how much harm it does.


God as our creator and the source of goodness naturally alone ultimately matters.  Religion tries to bind morality to the concept and that is not fair for we need to know how to co-operate more than we need a God!  The problem is we cannot justify God as much as need to justify morality.  The cart is put before the horse.


What if like our virus above, this time we had to choose between God and morality?  That shows that the two are separate and that one is less important than the other.


That alone shows that it is not true that religion inherently opposes the notion that God goes to a kitchen and cooks up right and wrong and may reverse the rules in a minute.  We have met several indications in this essay that that is the case. Divine command is at the back of its mind even if it condemns it.


More about ought and obligation


We all feel that there is more to morality than just obligation. We do not want to help a baby because it is the law of God or anybody's law but because it is better for the baby. We may go along with a law telling us to help the baby but we are not obeying the law in the sense that we are not helping the baby just because we are told.  Right and wrong are independent of God and are to be your God not him. Religion hates the notion that obligation is not everything. Why? Because it means you could have the right to disagree with its version of God. And disagree with it! So it tells us that God is everything and what he commands must be done.

So is moral moral because God says it is or moral even if he says it is wrong?  That is two questions and two options! 


God is just a brick to stop the car rolling away

What makes an act moral?  If the creator does, then what makes the creator moral?  1?  What is 1 and what makes it an authority on moral?  2? And we can go on forever with this.


The argument that morality is independent of God may be seen that way by some.


You can answer that you know it is independent and that is all you need to know.  You don't trace the whole sequence over the last few years that led to your car being hit by a falling slate.


The claim that God just decrees what is moral and that makes it moral even if it is wanton genocide is an attempt to stop the car from rolling down the slope forever.  But why not have God is 1 and so 1 is the reason an act is moral or immoral?  Well you can easily just have 1 is moral for 2 says so and 2 is morally right for 4 says so and so on.  If morality is just hearsay and guesses and inventions then there is no reason for stopping with God.  It is "immoral" to say there is.


God is 1 and 1 is why morality is valid you can see it as dodging the difficult question that "if God does not validate and ground and cause morality then what does?"  That is lazy and it is taking advantage of people with a dubious short-cut.


The claim that the answer to the dilemma is that God’s nature, the way God is, is justice and love, uses God just as a brick to stop the car rolling away forever. That is not true respect for God. You may say God is the only stop you need and there is nothing unloving or unfair about him being the stop so why not?  That is admitting then that he is a brick.  It is about using him to fulfil a function and that is blasphemous if he deserves pure spontaneous love and nothing else from us all.

It is evil to say that morality is just whatever God says it is no matter how much harm it does. All sane people agree. Even if God will never command genocide or mass murder, the fact remains that in principle it is being said to be okay if he does. Evil always starts small - with bad or irrational principles.
Christians hold that it is evil to say that morality is not God but above him and he cannot change it. That is ridiculous. It cannot really be called bad or evil to do that even if it is wrong. Christians call you evil for doing that so see that for the hate speech it is. For them it would be the ultimate sin for they regard failure to love God enough as the worst sin.
See morality as independent of what God wants or thinks and follow it not God.


* Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Monarch Publications, East Sussex, 1995


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