Objective Morals vs. Subjective Morals
Debate Rounds (4)
Within every human is a desire for God. We sometimes attempt to satisfy this "hunger" by practicing a religion. Atheism, in all its railings against God, also has intrinsic beliefs, dogmas, and tenets that supposedly can't be challenged. It is itself a belief system with all the markings of a religion.
Since we know there are moral absolutes, there has to be a moral law giver. That moral law giver has to be God.
Subjective Morals (Relativism) can't compete on the same ground with Objective Morals. To me, this is a great example that there is a God, due to the Moral Law we have.
You mentioned that cruelty to children being wrong is a moral absolute? Well, in the 18th and 19th centuries, thousands of children worked in factories which were horrible working environments. And unfair child labour is still a massive problem in many parts of the world, especially Asia. If this is "wrong" regardless of anything, then how come it took us over a hundred years to put a stop to it in the West and why is it still going on in other countries?
You say that we have moral absolute regardless of culture? Well, I'm going to assume that you believe that murder being wrong is a moral absolute. In plenty of African countries, cannibalism and sacrifice is still practiced to this day. Albinos Africans are often murdered by a mob of people due to their "worth" to voodoo/witch doctors. That is a cultural thing, something that has been practiced by them for hundreds, if not thousands of years. From a western point of view, we look at this and see it as being absolutely awful, yet they look at it and see it as normal because they grew up believing it was normal.
We still have plenty of modern examples of how morality is defined by society and culture. Gypsies are considered to be a blight by many Europeans because they are well-renowned to be thieves, con-artists and liars. They have grown up in an environment where stealing from other people is pretty much encouraged, thus they grow up and do the exact same thing and the cycle continues. That's an example of people who seemingly believe that stealing is right. Another major example is gang warfare which is usually rampant in poorer suburbs of big cities. Kids grow up being taught that the rival gang is the enemy and thus killing them starts to become "right" instead of "wrong". There are plenty of other great examples: religious fundamentalists, the Amish and some racial minorities. Many of them believe and behave the way they are due to the society in which they grew up in.
I'm definitely going to dispute your second point. Many humans do not "desire" for a God, me being one of them. Polls indicate in many countries that for many people, religion doesn't play a part in their lives. Religion, in my opinion, was originally created so that mankind could hope to explain things that they didn't understand. Later on, it was used as a mean's for control and a basic guideline for how people should live and what they should believe in.
Atheism is not a religion. The word itself literally means the lack of a religion or god. That's the only thing in common I have with all other atheists. On the other hand, there are a whole variety of beliefs that Christians or Muslims are supposed to share. There is no guideline or belief system an atheist must have other than the lack of a belief in a god.
In conclusion, atheism is not a religion. Also, our morals are decided or influenced by the society and culture we grew up in. Not all humans/cultures share the same belief of what is "right" and "wrong" and this, in my opinion, is enough to debunk the theory of moral objectivity. Not every human is programmed to have the exact same core of basic morals.
When someone says Moose Tracks ice cream is the best flavor, they are making a subjective truth claim. The claim is NOT about the ice cream but about their opinion of that ice cream. The truth claim is about the subject (them) and not the object (ice cream). However, when someone says, insulin is a drug that can save your life if you have diabetes, they are making a statement about insulin (the object), not about the person (the subject). When choosing ice cream you can choose what you like, when choosing medicine you must choose what heals. When choosing ice cream you can choose what's true for you; when choosing medicine you must choose what's true.
Do you see what I am trying to point out?
I will present you with this argument for round two:
P1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
P2. Objective moral values do exist
P3. Therefore, God exists
Let me explain each premise.
Premise 1 - If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
It"s hard to see why humans would have any real value if God does not exist. After all, on the atheist view, there"s nothing special about human beings. They"re just the accidental results of nature which have evolved relatively recently on a tiny speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a dangerous and purposeless universe, and which will go extinct in a relatively short time. This may sound pessimistic, but it"s the sad truth according to atheism. If atheism cannot account for moral values, then why would we have any obligations to one another? Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who abused and ate his victims, understood this truth well. Despite being raised to believe in God, he left his faith and embraced naturalistic evolution. He put the blame of his murders on his atheistic beliefs. Without God he found no basis for human value. Chillingly, he said, "If it all happens naturalistically, what"s the need for a God? Can"t I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself."
Premise 2 - Objective moral values do exist.
It"s common knowledge that moral values are real. As we saw in the opening illustration, people who claim not to believe in objective morality will quickly contradict themselves. C.S. Lewis said it best:
"Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining "It"s not fair" before you can say Jack Robinson."
Objective moral values do exist. And we all know it.
Premise 3 - Therefore, God exists
This conclusion fits smoothly with our moral experience. We all know there are immoral actions that should be condemned! In fact, we all know that we should make appropriate moral judgments. We rightly condemn slavery, racism, and child abuse and we praise self-sacrifice, humility, and generosity. The question is, what best accounts for these real moral values?
During the Nuremberg Trials, the Nazis claimed that their culture determined right and wrong and so no other culture could judge them for the Holocaust. The Nazis were partly right " if morality is determined by the culture, then we have no basis for judging other cultures. Yet clearly we all know Nazi behavior was wrong (if you can"t see this, you don"t need an argument). The international courts responded by claiming that the Nazis had violated a law that is higher than culture. In other words, they had violated a real, universal moral law.
Atheism certainly can"t account for this law. But theism, which holds to an eternal, holy, morally perfect Creator of the universe, can make perfect sense of it. If there is a universal moral law, there must be a universal Moral Law Giver.
The fact that different parts of the world might see "truth" differently then me is irrelevant. The fact that your beliefs depend upon where and when you were born has no relevance to the truth of those beliefs.
Looking forward to your next argument. :)
Against Premise 1 -
The idea that we are completely insignificant in the grand scheme of things isn't an atheistic point of view, it's an objective physical reality. We are lucky to be here, considering how hostile to life most of the universe appears to be. The Earth is a small speck of dust and in reality, nothing we do here truly matters when compared to the size and scale of the universe. Once again, that isn't an atheist point of view, that's simply the cold hard truth. If anything, believing that we are significant compared to the universe is an incredibly arrogant viewpoint.
As to your second point, you don't need religion to have moral values. Animals are a perfect example of this. Animals, as far as we know, don't believe in a higher power. Despite that, animals such as elephants, mice, gorillas, ravens and of course, dogs and cats, can all feel empathy. Empathy is a major player in what defines our moral values. Without empathy, we probably wouldn't feel guilt for stealing from or hurting another human being or animal. Whilst we do not completely understand it, using the argument that "God did it" isn't really an accepted solution anymore.
Also, Jeffrey Dahmer had multiple mental health issues and a history of substance abuse. Using him as an example for atheistic beliefs is like using Hitler for Christian beliefs. Also, that quote wasn't from Dahmer himself, it was from his father who was attempting to describe Dahmer's mindset. And there is absolutely no correlation between atheism and increased crime rates. Incidentally, crime rates are lower in countries that are more secular. This proves that you absolutely do not need religion to have a good set of moral values. Why? Because our society sets those moral values, not text from 2,000 years ago.
Against Premise 2 -
Yes, it is common knowledge that moral values are real.
That C.S. Lewis quote, whilst not wrong, isn't entirely correct either. The quote assumes that someone who doesn't believe in moral objectivity has a different set of moral values. Someone who believes in moral objectivity can have the exact same set of moral values as someone who doesn't believes in moral objectivity. The only difference is the way we believe we came to those beliefs: someone who believes in moral objectivity believes we were born that way and people who don't believe in moral objectivity believe we were influenced by our society to think that way.
Against Premise 3 -
Yes, we know there are immoral actions that should be condemned, but the way in which we condemn them are different depending on the person. For example, some people believe that murder should be met with capital punishment, whereas others think capital punishment is wrong. In other words, some people believe that killing is "right" in certain circumstances whereas other people believe killing is "wrong" in all circumstances. Our beliefs in regards to killing is shaped by the laws and culture of our society.
Once again, you bring up our condemnation of slavery, racism and child abuse. However, racism has definitely not been eradicated, slavery was still mainstream two hundred years ago and is still being practiced today, and child abuse is definitely still happening. What you and I regard as "right" and "wrong" is definitely not the same as what our forefathers regarded as "right" and "wrong". Why do we believe in different things? Because society evolves and progresses. What we once deemed taboo slowly becomes a normality. God doesn't suddenly update our moral compass every few decades or so, no, we decide for ourselves. When the Americans finally freed their slaves, they didn't all of a sudden say, "Ok guys, this is wrong", it took decades for them to slowly realise that, "Hey, these guys are people as well. What right do we have to own them?" It's like the modern example of marriage equality, many people have realised or are starting to realise that, "Hey, if a man and woman can get married and be unhappy, why can't two people of the same gender get married and be happy?" It's simple, society evolves and as it evolves, so does our morality. If objective morality was real, if this universal set of "right" and "wrong" was real, we would've never had slavery, child abuse or racism because we would've known it was wrong from the very beginning.
So what best accounts for these moral values? That's easy. When society first developed thousands of years ago, it would've quickly become apparent that the best way to survive and prosper was to cooperate. We see this among animals who roam in packs as opposed to animals who don't roam in packs. Laws regarding killing, lying and stealing are created to prevent chaos because we can look at chaos from a modern perspective and know that it simply doesn't work. It's evolutionary, the best way to survive and prosper is to obviously have laws against things that are detrimental to the survival of our species.
As to your example of the Nuremberg Trials, let me introduce you to a bit of alternate reality. Assuming the Nazis had won the war and gone own to conquer most of, if not all of the Earth, then it's quite likely that people would grow up this very day believing that the Holocaust was a good thing. Even though the Nazis lost the war, people this very day believe that the Holocaust was a good thing and that the Nazis were right. As to the courts response to the Nazis, there were thousands of war crimes the Nazis were found guilty of. They weren't judged on the basis of a universal moral law, they were judged on the deaths of upwards of thirty million innocent people. They were judged on their war crimes and continuous breaches of the Geneva Convention. They could legally be held accountable for the war crimes they committed.
As to your last few points, atheism can't account for what isn't and neither can secular society. The whole point of written laws is to avoid theologically-based moral laws from intervening in secular systems. Also, so far no religion that I'm aware of has described a morally perfect creator - they are always as flawed as the humans they apparently "created". And finally, it is relevant that different parts of the world see things differently to you. There is no moral absolutism, that's why we have different religions, different laws and different beliefs across all parts of the world. If moral absolutism was true, then surely we would all be the same?
Regardless of what your country says these actions will always be wrong. If Nazi Germany would've won WW2 killing innocent people would still be wrong. Just like here in America, slavery was wrong, regardless of whether or not the south (culture) said so.
Even being gay is wrong. Sexual marriage will do nothing but harm our country. Hey, if gay marriage does become legal in all states... Let's legalize where men and women can marry children. Let's legalize where it's legal to marry animals. Why not?
For the most part, regardless where you live, people know right from wrong.
Why is rape wrong? Because it's physically violating another human being. But hold on, even as recent as World War II, women were seen as spoils of war and rape was simply seen as a part of war.
Why is murder wrong? Because no one has the right to end another human being's life. But wait a second, many countries still have capital punishment, which is effectively just state-sanctioned murder. That means that some people agree that murder is right in the right circumstances.
Why is theft wrong? Because ownership is a concept we coined thousands of years ago. Ownership doesn't work if someone can simply take things from you. But once again, some cultures don't value the concept of ownership, such as the Gypsies. Therefore, to them, stealing isn't seen as wrong.
Why is child abuse wrong? Because it's the exploitation of someone that can't fend for themselves, but that didn't stop us from sending them into factories a few hundred years ago.
These four things you constantly mention are considered wrong by most of today's society, but throughout certain points of history, to certain people, they all definitely haven't been considered wrong.
You bring up Nazi Germany again. I guarantee you that if Nazi Germany had conquered all of humanity, after a while we'd all look back on some of the things they did during the war and would think of them as good things rather than bad things. Killing/slavery/child abuse/theft are all wrong as long as we, as a society, believe they are wrong. We believe they are wrong because they are detrimental to society, plus we have a little thing called empathy which helps us along the way.
As to your final point, once again, it seems that you're arguing from a Christian world view. Large parts of humanity do believe that gay marriage is wrong, but there are also plenty of people who believe there is nothing wrong with it. And earlier you mentioned the natural law, so here's some natural law for you.
Yes, that's right. There are plenty of animals which display homosexual behavior which leads me to believe that homosexuality must be natural. Therefore, homosexuality, along with heterosexuality, must be right!
And you cannot possibly compare homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. There is absolutely nothing linking them together.
But that's no what we're arguing. We're arguing whether or not everyone knows right from wrong. Well, here's a good starting example. You believe homosexuality is wrong? Well, I believe it's right, just as I believe bisexuality and heterosexuality are right. Maybe we just have different opinions? Or maybe I'm a criminal who is breaking the "natural law of the universe".
Hey, and thanks for keeping it short. Fire away.
Objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so.
Is Homosexual natural?
The answer to this question depends on how you define natural. If natural means "genetic or biologically determined," then homosexuality is not natural. Decades of scientific research have failed to find a "gay gene" or a sole biological cause for same-sex attraction. The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and even gay researchers all recognize that homosexuality cannot be reduced to biology alone. Instead, they acknowledge that social factors seem to play a key role in the development of homosexuality. No evidence suggests that it's natural for homosexuals to be "born gay." Sometimes natural refers to design. Something is natural if it I functioning the way it was designed to function. But, homosexual behavior isn't natural in this sense, either. It goes against the natural function of the body. Male and female bodies have a "natural" fit because their genes have fashioned their sexual anatomies to complement each other. Their reproductive organs work together harmoniously to produce another human being-a clear indication that natural design favors heterosexual rather than homosexual unions. Some argue that homosexuality is natural in the sense that God created people that way. But there is no reason to believe this. No major religious tradition teaches or affirms that homosexuality is natural or moral. Though some gay advocates deny that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior, they must resort to interpretive gymnastics that distort the clear and obvious meaning of the biblical text.
Homosexuality is "natural" in one sense, though. It "occurs in nature" in the sense that some human beings engage in homosexual behavior. Gay advocates argue that if it occurs in nature, then it's morally appropriate. But to conclude that homosexuality is moral simply because it happens with some frequency commits an error in thinking known as the is-ought fallacy. Just because a behavior is occurring in nature doesn't mean it ought to be considered moral. After all, if you accept the natural status-quo as moral, then every behavior seems to pass the morality test. Murder, rape, and theft all "occur in nature." Some animals kill their young or abandon wounded family members. Others cannibalize their mates. These behaviors occur more frequently than homosexuality, yet we wouldn't give blanket approval to them just because they're natural in this sense.
Morality is often the opposite of doing what comes naturally, and the ability to overcome natural impulses is one of the things that separate humans from animals. In summary, homosexuality is not a natural behavior if by natural you mean something that fits our anatomy or God's design for sexuality and reproduction.
Nazi Germany comparison:
Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.
Most countries have an idea of hat is objectively true. Relativism(Subjective truth) isn't even on the same playing field as Absolute truth. Let me explain:
1. Relativism is the belief that there are no objective, absolute truths.
2. The relativist's position is self-defeating because the relativist is making an absolute truth claim when they say, "all truth is relative.
3. If truth is relative, on hat basis can we judge or condemn the actions of people with whom we disagree?
4. Truth is the correspondent between our beliefs and reality. Relativism denies this.
5. A society not governed by absolute truths(objective truths) would fall apart. For example, imagine a nation where red stop signs didn't absolutely mean "stop" for all people.
The fact that murder, rape, child abuse, hate, and theft are all wrong isn't simply due to the fact that it is best for the society for those actions to be wrong. But because we know within our hearts that certain actions are right and certain actions are wrong. Regardless with what a society might say.
My Bible helped me with some sources. Haha... And yes, my worldview is from a Christian point of view :)
Enjoyed the debate. Thanks :)
I'd argue that social factors can play a role in some cases, but in most cases they don't. After all, the social environment of the American Bible Belt or Saudi Arabia don't seem likely to "turn" someone gay, yet gays exist in both places. As for being born gay, all the homosexual people I've known have never "chosen" to be gay. I had a girlfriend in high school for nearly a year and less than a year after she broke up with me, she turned out to be a lesbian. And looking back on it, it definitely did make sense. Obviously, personal anecdotes don't win an argument but I can say with confidence that over 95% of homosexual people didn't choose to be gay, they simply are.
From an evolutionary standpoint, I do agree that homosexuality isn't natural. After all, the whole theory behind evolution is effectively based around survival and homosexual relationships don't reproduce (at least natural anyway). However, I will remind you that thousands of animals show blatant homosexual behavior, meaning it isn't a human invention by any means. It can also be traced back for thousands of years, possibly even to the original evolution of humanity. If homosexuality is a concept that has been with the human race for thousands of years, what exactly makes it unnatural anymore?
Moving onto your next point, we as a society are mostly beyond the point of arguing whether homosexuality is moral or not. At this point, it doesn't really matter because it has turned into a human right/equality issue rather than a moral issue. Once again, this is due to social evolution. We believed homosexuality was immoral for over a thousand years due to the rise of Christianity and later, Islam. However, as Christianity (not so much Islam) has become less important for society, so has some of its teachings. While a lot of it's core tenets are still important parts of society, other parts are simply seen as outdated and simply don't belong in the modern world. This a perfect example of how societal evolution affect what we believe is natural, moral or right.
I'll end this with some points of my own.
1. Absolute truth argues that every human has the exact same concept of what is right and what is wrong.
2. Absolute truth argues that regardless of what we believe in, there is a default worldview that would continue even if everyone believed otherwise.
3. This can be debunked by the fact that different societies over history have had different concepts of right and wrong.
4. It can also be debunked by the fact that humans have such diverse points of views on big issues such as homosexuality, drugs, capital punishment and other social issues.
5. Technically, a society governed by absolute truth should have much less crime and everyone should agree with each other on major issues.
The fact that murder, rape, child abuse and theft (hate is a human emotion) are all wrong IS simply due to the fact that society, for thousands of years, has made those actions wrong. The fact that we have different opinions on so many different topics means that objective morality doesn't exist, regardless of what a religion might say.
Thanks for the debate.
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