Michael Shermer (head of The Skeptics Society and whose book Why People Believe Weird Things I liked; some of its arguments actually apply to many Christian believers, academics included) has posted a video challenging the fundamentalist/conservative Christian claim that without God there is no secure basis for morality.
Dennis Prager, someone better known to US readers, posted the usual dogmatic nonsense @ ‘If There Is No God, Then Murder Isn’t Wrong’. (See below for the video)
Now Shermer has responded with – ‘If There Is No God, Is Murder Wrong? He pretty much knocks out the argument with his first question or point one of four. Happily both videos are short.
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9 thoughts on “If there is no God, is murder wrong?”
Thanks for those links, Neil. They give as good a precis of that debate as I’ve ever seen.
I listened to Shermer’s first point. To me, these arguments are neither here nor there. If you define morality as what God demands, then sure, if God says murder is moral, it is. That’s all there is to it. You may not like it, but so what? Shermer’s rebuttal amounts to a kind of begging the question… ‘If God says murder is moral, and therefore it is, that’s too horrible to consider! An unacceptable state of affairs!’ But this is not a refutation because you can’t refute something that’s axiomatic. An axiom is arbitrary and it’s not derived from anything else. You can’t ‘disprove’ it. You can only advocate for a different system with different axioms.
When we make “judgements,” such as the judgement that “murder is wrong,” we make those judgements by applying either explicit or implicit criteria.
For instance, when an elementary school teacher is making a judgement as to what grade a child gets on a narrative piece of writing that the child has submitted, the teacher applies a rubric judging such things as effective use by the child of such things as:
Ideas—the main message
Organization—the internal structure of the piece
Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
Conventions—the mechanical correctness
Presentation—how the writing actually looks on the page
Similarly, when a mixed martial arts judge tries to determine which fighter wins the match, they judge the fighters respective performances against such criteria as striking, grappling, and aggression.
The problem with moral judgements is that it is hard to get non-subjective criteria. In terms of murder, our culture in our time judges murder to be wrong, but other cultures in other times have approved of such things as cannibalism and feeding the Christians to the lions for sport. If we are not to just adapt an arbitrary “holier than thou” attitude from the point of view of our time, individual biases, and culture, the question is what right do we have to judge others that have a different worldview than we do?
If we are not to have moral relativism, we need to establish what the objective criteria is for judging that murder is wrong.
The idea that murder is wrong because there is a God who says so, is an opinion. The characteristics of the God who says so are also the opinions of the speaker (God is the Abrahamic patriarchal figure, etc.). This is the fundamental dishonesty of absolutist Christians, which Sartre has described.
The idea that murder is wrong because there is a God, who says so, is an opinion.
The idea that murder is wrong because there is a Government, who says so, is an opinion.
The idea that murder is right because I want your wife, is an opinion.
The idea that my opinion is just as valid as your opinion is an opinion,
Who do you think you are that your opinion is more valid and right then my opinion.
What a slippery slope!
If the government says murder is wrong, it becomes more than an opinion. It becomes law.
If there is god then murder is right.
*1 Sam 15.3ff
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ……….. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, …”
“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself….Then Peter said…..You have not lied just to human beings but to God. When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died….. Peter said to her [Sapphira], “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.”
The punch line:
“Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”
If there is a god and murder is wrong does that mean god is wrong when it murders?
very poor video – surprising such superficial sceptic video from shurmr madit on tu this forum.Yet again, Shurmr fails t adres *why* murdur is rong. whot is its graunding..is it rong in the same way as 2+2=9? He call state exicusns ‘murdur’ he calls wor ‘murdur by a nasn.