5 Common Objections to the Moral Argument

right-way-wrong-way1The Moral Argument for the existence of God has been graced with a long tradition of defense from theistic (and atheistic!) philosophers and thinkers throughout the history of Western thought…and a long tradition of misunderstandings and objections by even some of the most brilliant minds. To be fair, the argument is not always as intuitive as theists like to think it is. Essentially, the moral argument seeks to infer God as the best explanation for the objective moral facts about the universe. One of the most popular formulations is as follows:

1. Objective morality cannot exist unless God exists.

2. Objective morality exists.

3. Therefore, God exists.

There are a host of common objections that are usually blown in the direction of this argument, but for the sake of brevity, I will only deal with five. 

1. “But I’m a moral person and I don’t believe in God. Are you saying that atheists can’t be moral?”

The moral argument has nothing to do with belief in God. No proponent of the moral argument has ever argued that an individual cannot be moral unless they hold belief in God. Rather, the argument deals with grounding, or substantiating, objective morality. If God does not exist, then there can be no basis for objective morality. Sure, atheists can be moral. In fact, I know several atheists who are more moral than some theists! The issue of belief is not pertinent to the argument. The argument simply highlights the fact that there must be a basis– some kind of standard–that is outside of ourselves, in order for there to be objective morality. This objection makes a category error of confusing a question of moral ontology (Is there a moral reality?) with moral epistemology (How do we come to know or believe in the moral reality?).

2. “But what if you needed to lie in order to save someone’s life? It seems that morality is not absolute as you say it is.”

We’re not talking about absolute morality here. There is an important difference between absolute and objective. Absolutism requires that something will, or must, always be the case. Objectivity simply means ‘mind-independent’ or ‘judgement-independent’. When I argue for objective morality, I’m not arguing that it is always the case that lying or killing are wrong; the moral argument does not defend absolute morality. Rather, it contends that there is a standard of morality that transcends human opinions, judgments, biases, and proclivities. Let’s suppose that some nation today decreed that everyone of its homosexual citizens would be tortured to death simply for being homosexual; it would still be the case that, ‘It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’.

The statement, ‘It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’ is true, regardless of whether or not anyone believes it to be true. This is what is meant by objective.

3. ‘Where’s your evidence for objective morality? I won’t believe in anything unless I have evidence for it.’

Well in that case, you shouldn’t believe that I exist. You shouldn’t believe that your parents gave birth to you. You shouldn’t believe that your closest loved ones are real, actual persons who matter and have feelings. You shouldn’t believe that the external world around you is actually there. After all, how do you know that you are not a brain in a vat being electrically stimulated by a crazy scientist who wants you to think that all of this is real? You could be in the matrix, for all you know (take the blue pill)! How do you know that you weren’t created a couple minutes ago and implanted with memories of your entire past life? How could you possibly prove otherwise?

See where this is going? Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism. We believe in the reality of the external world on the basis of our experience of the external world, and we are justified in believing that the external world is real unless we had good evidence to think otherwise. There is no way to prove (empirically or otherwise) that the external world is real, or that the past wasn’t created 2 minutes ago with the appearance of age, and yet we all believe these to be true and are justified in doing so. In the absence of defeating evidence, we are justified in trusting our experience of the external world. In the same way, I think we can know that objective morality exists on the basis of our moral experience. We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition. Unless we have good reason to distrust our moral experience, we are justified in accepting the reality of the objective moral framework that it presents us with.

4. ‘If morality is objective, then why do some cultures practice female genital mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and other atrocities which we, in the West, deem unacceptable?’

There can be two responses given here:

The first response is that even though not all cultures share the exact same moral facts, most embrace the same, underlying moral values. For example, there are certain tribes that practice senicide (authorized killing of the elderly) due to their belief that everyone in the afterlife will continue living on in the same body that they died with. Thus, in order to ensure that those in the afterlife are capable of hunting, swimming, building houses, etc., the elderly are killed before they become too old to take care of themselves. This act is done with the well-being of the elderly in mind. The moral value that we hold in the West- ”The elderly are valuable and must be taken care of”- is also accepted by these tribes, even though their facts are slightly (well, maybe more than slightly) off.

The second response is that some cultures do, in fact, practice certain things that are straight up morally abominable. Cultures that practice infanticide, female circumcision, widow burning, child prostitution, etc. are practicing acts that are repulsive and morally abhorrent. When a man decides to have his 6-year old daughter circumcised or sold into prostitution, that is not a cultural or traditional difference that we should respect and uphold, rather these are atrocities that need to be advocated against and ended. The existence of  multiple moral codes does not negate the existence of objective morality. Are we to condone slavery and segregation since they were once allowed under our country’s moral code? Of course not. We condemn those actions, and rightly so.

Take the example of Nazi Germany: the Nazi ideology consented to the slaughter of millions, but their actions were wrong despite them thinking that they were right. Tim Keller summarizes this point succintly:

The Nazis who exterminated Jews may have claimed that they didn’t feel it was immoral at all. We don’t care. We don’t care if they sincerely felt they were doing a service to humanity. They ought not to have done it. We do not only have moral feelings, but we also have an ineradicable belief that moral standards exist, outside of us, by which our internal moral feelings are evaluated.

Simply because a society practices acts that are contrary to what is moral does not mean that all moral codes are equal. Moral disagreements do not nullify moral truths.

5. ‘But God carried out many atrocities in the Old Testament. He ordered the genocide of the Canaanites.’

For starters, this isn’t really an objection to the moral argument. It does not attack either premise of the argument. It is irrelevant, but let’s entertain this objection for a second. By making a judgement on God’s actions and deeming them immoral, the objector is appealing to a standard of morality that holds true outside of him/herself and transcends barriers of culture, context, time period, and social norms. By doing this, he/she affirms the existence of objective morality! But if the skeptic wants to affirm objective morality after throwing God out the window, then there needs to be an alternate explanation for its basis. If not God, then what is it? The burden is now on the skeptic to provide a naturalistic explanation for the objective moral framework.

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Paul Rezkalla

Paul graduated from NYU with degrees in Religious Studies and History. He has recently completed a MA in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England and is now pursuing a second MA in Theology. His interests are too many to list and too varied to make sense of.

  • Frank

    You say that objective morality does not need to be proven beyond our moral experience. However, I, for example, do not have a gut feeling that there is a transcendent objective morality. You apparently do, but others do not. If you did a survey, you could derive a percentage of the do’s and do not’s. Does that mean that objective morality exists for only those who experience it? Or does it mean that those who do not experience it are irrelevant because the majority do experience it, which proves it to be true because majority rule? I’m guessing you would argue the latter. If so, what is the percentage threshold that determine that objective morality is real? At 89% does it fail to be statistically significant and the theory falls?

    “By making a judgement on God’s actions and deeming them immoral, the objector is appealing to a standard of morality that holds true outside of him/herself and transcends barriers” – this is a non sequitur. Since when is giving an opinion appealing to a standard that transcends barriers? Just because I think rocky road ice cream is good, doesn’t make it an objective truth – it’s completely in the eye of the beholder. The same goes with my moral positions, they are my opinions, and just because I espouse them doesn’t mean they transcend me.

    BTW, regarding your example about killing homosexuals being obviously immoral, all the Christian readers out there should familiarize themselves with the following verse in their bible: “homosexuals must be put to death” – Leviticus 20:13.

    • Paul Rezkalla

      Hey Frank,

      Thanks for your comment. You say, “I, for example, do not have a gut feeling that there is a transcendent objective morality…Since when is giving an opinion appealing to a standard that transcends barriers? Just because I think rocky road ice cream is good, doesn’t make it an objective truth – it’s completely in the eye of the beholder. The same goes with my moral positions, they are my opinions, and just because I espouse them doesn’t mean they transcend me.”

      If this is the case, then you are never justified in providing a moral judgement…ever.

      Child slaves in Thailand, execution of homosexuals, public floggings of rape VICTIMS in the Middle East, and the sexual abuse of children are all ok on your view, right? It’s a matter of preference, no? Just like the difference between rocky-road and vanilla. You like rocky road and they like vanilla. You don’t agree with child rape, but they do. Morality is all in the eye of the beholder. No biggie!

      • Frank

        Hello Paul!

        Can I use something that transcends me to prove that my moral opinion is right? No. In the case of who is right and wrong, it is completely subjective. That’s less romantic than there being a transcendent objective morality, but that doesn’t make it any less true – sometimes the truth is unpleasant. If irrefutable proof existed of a transcendent objective morality, I’d be thrilled to believe it, but in the absence of that I refuse to distort reality with what I’d like to be the case.

        How do you jump from me not having transcendent proof to me being ok with child sexual abuse? This is a jump I’ve seen other apologetics make and always amazes me. Regardless if objective morality exists, I can have my moral opinions. Just because there is disagreement in the world on moral issues, doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion.

        In society, we have to have laws, otherwise it’s anarchy, which doesn’t work. So, collectively, we take a side and make it the law. Usually this means majority rules. To most people, this law feels “objectively right”, but in reality it is just there subjective opinion. And these consensuses change over time; slavery and suffrage are good examples of the majority doing a reversal on what is “objectively right”. My opinion is just as subjective as a sociopaths, but if I’m in the majority, my opinion is law and the sociopath is punished for breaking it.

        Also, you didn’t respond to my first argument. And how do you reconcile Leviticus 20:13 with your morals? I think even you would argue that this verse is “objectively immoral”.

        • Paul Rezkalla

          I don’t think you understand the concept of objective vs subjective morality. You seem to think that you are still entitled to pass judgment and hold to a standard of morality despite purporting to have a view that morality is purely subjective.

          ‘How do you jump from me not having transcendent proof to This is a jump I’ve seen other apologetics make and always amazes me. Regardless if objective morality exists, I can have my moral opinions. Just because there is disagreement in the world on moral issues, doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion.’

          Sure, you can have your opinion, but on your view, your opinion is no better than that of the child abuser or the rapist who think that his/her opinion is also valid. You have no right to say that they are wrong. You can’t say that someone is wrong to like vanilla icecream if you are a chocolate lover. They’re both equally valid.

          This reduces all morality to preference. If you saw a man abusing a child on the street corner you would have no justification for intervening. Sure, you can express your distaste on the inside, but you cannot intervene or pass any significant moral judgement. On your view, no one can or should intervene. After all, you like rocky road, he likes vanilla. Who are you to say that the child abuser needs to stop? Isn’t morality subjective, after all?

          ‘My opinion is just as subjective as a sociopaths, but if I’m in the majority, my opinion is law and the sociopath is punished for breaking it.’

          Wow. If you really think that your morality is no better than that of the sociopath, then maybe you might be a sociopath.

          With regard to Leviticus 20, it seems that you are implying that there is some immoral command being issued here. On what grounds is this command immoral? Morality is totally subjective, after all! Who cares that you think homosexuals ought to not be killed? On your view, it doesn’t matter whether they are killed or not.

          • Frank

            I appreciate the thoughtful response. Some good stuff here!

            I disagree – surprise! I think we do understand each other. You agree that I can have an opinion, but you think “right” and “wrong” are irrelevant in my case because everyone’s opinion is equally valid, and I would therefore have no justification for intervening if a crime was taking place because the criminal’s justification is just as weighty as mine. Am I accurately representing your views?

            Here’s my first beef: you think I’m not entitled to pass judgement. People judge, whether they are entitled to or not. People judge other people’s clothing style, intelligence, attractiveness, morality, etc. It’s in our nature to judge. It’s also in our nature to think our opinion is right. Take the hotly debated moral issues of our day: abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, etc. People on both sides of the aisle are self righteous on the matter. You say I have no right to judge a child abuser, but I think “right” is irrelevant here. I judge them, regardless if I’m allowed to. I’m self righteous about certain opinions. And the vast majority of society are on my side, as well as the law. These are my reasons to act. If these aren’t aligned, I’m not always going to act. I’m against mothers spanking their kids, but when I see a mother do it on the subway, I don’t intervene, because the majority and the law are not on my side, nor do I feel strong enough about it. Just like you don’t physically impede abortion clinics (I’m assuming), even though you think it’s immoral (I’m assuming).

            Just because I think morality is subjective, doesn’t mean I don’t care, doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m right, doesn’t mean I’m not going to judge, and doesn’t mean I’m not going to intervene. I don’t understand why you think one follows the other. We can get theoretical and talk about “rights”, but people don’t live their lives in the theoretical sphere.

            There appears to be a misunderstanding of what sociopath means. Here’s the definition: “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” I’m not psychopathic because I feel remorse. Don’t think antisocial or criminal apply to our discussion. A sense of moral responsibility can definitely exist, even if I think morality is subjective. It’s the responsibility to hold true to my moral opinions. “Social conscience” is defined as “an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society.” I don’t see how this can’t apply to me, even as a moral relativist. I don’t see how any of these definitions are incompatible with being a moral relativist. You’ll have to explain.

            Regarding Leviticus 20:13, that was a dodge. It’s also the most common reaction I’ve seen when Christians are confronted with obviously repugnant moral teachings in the bible. Let me clarify: I’m not talking about me and what I believe; I’m interested in you. You believe there is objective morality and that the bible preaches it. So how then do you reconcile Leviticus 20:13?

            • Semi

              Morality ultimately has to do with protecting “well being”. And the more moral a decision the more beneficial for general well being as opposed to the well being of a few. When it comes to God’s acts in the Old Testament, He was stern not only against homosexuality, but other acts He deemed immoral (i.e. idolatry, murder – which is unjust killing). As human beings, we can mean well with decisions concerning morality, but the results do not end up serving the best interests of society. However, God being omniscient, knows what’s best, even if in our eyes it seems to be a heinous act.

              In the Old Testament, Israel was a theocracy. God was showing what his laws were through a nation to other nations that were either naive of God’s law, or just outright rebellious against their conscience. Either way, God saw it best to operate the way He did from a moral context, to show the results of sin, and to better mankind in terms of knowledge of sin. You see for example, God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wicked practices. but then He shows mercy to Nineveh, because they did not know their right hand from their left. He knows what will benefit mankind and their generations in the long run; when to punish for the sake of example, and when to show mercy.

              • Frank

                Got it. So it’s a combination of “god is mysterious and we don’t fully understand him” and “evil for the greater good”.

                The only problem with these justifications is that they make ANYTHING permissible, as long as it’s in the bible. Christians often quote Dostoevsky saying “Without god, anything is permissible.” But I have the exact opposite gripe: with god’s mysteriousness and infallibility, anything is permissible, as long as it’s in the bible. We know this because the bible DOES have teachings that are unequivocally morally repugnant in our day and age and they ARE accepted by literalists because the bible is supposedly “objectively moral”. I’m sure you’re familiar with the list: genocide, rape, slavery, murdering homosexuals, etc. Assume for a second that the bible is not infallible, you could see how this would be a major concern for a “moral” person.

                • Semi

                  In the Old Testament no one did those acts in the name of God unless they knew it was God. Your argument that anything is permissible from the bible is flawed because it relies on people in our generation claiming they heard from God to do what seems evil, and not on whether they actually heard from God. In the Old Testament, the nations knew and saw the actual power of God through miracles. And Israel knew what God commanded because they were acqainted with Him through miracles. Much different from let’s say a mother in our generation claiming they drowned their child because God told them.

                  • Frank

                    “In the Old Testament no one did those acts in the name of God unless they knew it was God.” Yes, but according to your view, those acts done in the old testament were called for by god, and god is omnibenevolent, so anything he calls for is moral. I understand your point about hearing the orders from god himself, but the fact that he’s considered omnibenevolent and people look to the bible for moral guidance, I think, creates a kind of moral hazard which negatively affects everyone else. Homophobia is an example.

                    BTW, how do you know that the mother you describe didn’t hear god, just as the people in the old testament did?

                    • Semi

                      Many people just want to carry out their own selfish agenda and use and abuse the bible as a means to that. That in no way knocks the bible, or the way God really does things. And though people can interpret things differently, someone’s motive in the process of interpretation is very important.

                      Theoretically, there is an argument that the mother hears from God. But I would say there is no reason to believe her, especially since God makes it clearer than just hearing a voice when it comes to obeying extreme commands. Even with Abraham, when God told him to sacrifice his son, Abraham was already acquainted with God and saw miraculous things. People knew of Abraham’s reputation, and the times of the O.T. were much different than today. Even pagan nations would shrug at child sacrifice since they practiced the same thing. Now, we know not to practice such an act, so with all the factors just mentioned, I find it very improbable God would command a mother to do that.

                    • Frank

                      So you are saying the bible is not timeless, but rather contextual because times have changed.

                    • Semi

                      I don’t see where in my comment that I implied such a thing. Can you point that out for me so I can respond accordingly?

                    • Frank

                      “People knew of Abraham’s reputation, and the times of the O.T. were much different than today. Even pagan nations would shrug at child sacrifice since they practiced the same thing.”

                      I take this as meaning: god’s orders made sense in the times of the O.T., but not any more, because times/morals have changed. In other words, it’s contextual.

            • Paul Rezkalla

              You’re still not understanding the argument.

              ‘People judge, whether they are entitled to or not. People judge other people’s clothing style, intelligence, attractiveness, morality, etc. It’s in our nature to judge. It’s also in our nature to think our opinion is right.’

              I never said that people refrain from passing judgments. My argument is that, on your view, there is no basis for moral judgments. I don’t see how you’re not getting this. You are arguing that morality is completely haphazard and contingent upon the preferences or proclivities of an individual or a society. On that view, how can you possibly justify passing judgement on someone? Their moral code is just as valid as yours. There is no objective standard by which to deem one better than the other. Are you justified in making a judgement on the person who likes vanilla instead of rocky road? Reducing morality to a matter of preference is really scary. But on your view, the difference between raping a child and taking care of him is akin to the difference between rocky road and ice cream. Even most atheist philosophers agree with this.Once you accept that morality is purely subjective, then you accept that all moral codes are equal.

              I don’t really believe you’re a socio/psychopath. I was making a finer point about the consistent relativistic lifestyle. No one is a consistent relativist…unless they are a socio/psychopath.

              The issue of Leviticus is irrelevant to this discussion. And you, as a moral relativist, are not justified in passing a moral judgement on Leviticus, or anything/anyone, for that matter.

              • Frank

                “On that view, how can you possibly justify passing judgement on someone?” I suspect the disconnect is that you think passing judgement on someone requires justification beyond one’s self, I do not.

                “Reducing morality to a matter of preference is really scary.” That may be so, but it has no impact on it’s likelihood of being true.

                “No one is a consistent relativist…unless they are a socio/psychopath.” I think you have your definitions mixed up again, but not going to worry about it.

                Regarding Leviticus, I tried to get you to discuss it openly, but you’ve refused to twice now, which tells me it’s a sensitive issue, so I won’t try again.

                • Paul Rezkalla

                  ‘I suspect the disconnect is that you think passing judgement on someone requires justification beyond one’s self, I do not.’ You just said that your judgments are unjustified. If your judgement is not justified, then it’s completely worthless. It’s absolutely meaningless.Why should anyone listen to you? Why is your belief that raping children is wrong better than than the rapist’ view that raping children is ok? You have no justification. Thus, on your view, there is nothing really wrong with rape. Even if someone objects to rape, their judgement is not justified. See where relativism leads? I don’t think you really are a relativist.

                  • Daniel Mann

                    Excellent job Paul! Incisive and crisp reasoning! If you plan to do a follow up, you might want to strengthen your #3, regarding the evidence – admittedly internal – for objective morality. You might want to borrow some of C.S. Lewis’ insights (Mere Christianity) on the impossibility of avoiding moral law and living consistently with the assertion that morals are just subjective.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “For starters, this isn’t really an objection to the moral argument.”

    Yes it is. The moral argument includes in its premise that God causes the existence of objective morals. If God behaves immorally then this argument is undermined. Further, you argue “We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition”. Well, what if our moral intuitions tell us that the genocide of the Canaanites was immoral? Are those intuitions to be trusted now or not?

    “The burden is now on the skeptic to provide a naturalistic explanation for the objective moral framework”

    The apologist has provided no explanation for the objective moral framework – merely asserted that its existence would prove the existence of God.

    “Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism.”

    The options aren’t either ‘solipsism’ or ‘accept without evidence’. You seem to be denying the validity of any kind of expectation of evidence at all!

    “The statement, ’It is wrong to torture homosexuals to death simply for being homosexual’ is true, regardless of whether or not anyone believes it to be true. This is what is meant by objective.”

    Then it should apply whether or not God thinks it’s true, or indeed whether or not God even exists – otherwise you’d using special pleading.

    • Andrew Ryan

      You could even argue that we have a ‘strong feeling’ that certain acts are wrong due to God making us have those feelings. That would tell us nothing about the morality of those acts – even if we grant that God is in fact doing this, all we’ve established is that God has the power to make us think certain ways. This tells us no more about the morality of any particular act than the training of a puppy by its owner.

      • Paul Rezkalla

        You could even argue that we have a ‘strong feeling’ that the external world is real due to God making us have those feelings. We could never know that the external world is real–even if we grant that God is in fact doing this, all we’ve established is that God has the power to make us think certain ways. This tells us no more about the reality of the external world than the training of a puppy by its owner.

        • Andrew Ryan

          “You could even argue that we have a ‘strong feeling’ that the external world is real due to God making us have those feelings”

          You can assert it. But I’d like to see you construct an actual argument to support it.

          My puppy training analogy stands. The point was that EVEN IF one allows for the sake of argument that a God is making us having those feelings, it would STILL not show the feelings point to an ‘objective morality’ reality. It would get you no closer to demonstrating objective morality exists.

          • Paul Rezkalla

            “You can assert it. But I’d like to see you construct an actual argument to support it.”

            You want me to construct an actual argument to support the reality of the external world? Do you not believe that the external world is real?

            • Andrew Ryan

              That’s not the ‘it’ in the sentence “you can assert it”. I quoted exactly what I was referring to immediately above “you can assert it” so there should be no confudion – it wasn’t “the reality of the external world”. My point stands.

    • Paul Rezkalla

      “The moral argument includes in its premise that God causes the existence of objective morals. If God behaves immorally then this argument is undermined.”

      How can God behave immorally? What standard are you using to measure the morality of God’s actions? The objection does not attack the moral argument that I provided at the start. To attack an argument, you must attack one of the premises. This objection does not attack either premise, that’s why it’s not an objection to the moral argument.

      “The apologist has provided no explanation for the objective moral framework – merely asserted that its existence would prove the existence of God.”

      An explanation, by definition, is the providing of a justification (explanans) for some explanandum, such as a belief, a phenomenon, or state of affairs. My explanation for objective morality. Objective morality (explanandum) is best accounted for by God (explanans).

      “The options aren’t either ‘solipsism’ or ‘accept without evidence’. You seem to be denying the validity of any kind of expectation of evidence at all!”

      I never said that we accept the existence of objective morality ‘without evidence’. We do have evidence: from our moral experience. If you deny that evidence, then why not also be a solipsist? That’s my argument.

      “Then it should apply whether or not God thinks it’s true, or indeed whether or not God even exists – otherwise you’d using special pleading.”

      If God does not exist, why would torturing people for fun be wrong. Where does the concept of ‘wrong’ find its basis in naturalism?

      • Andrew Ryan

        “To attack an argument, you must attack one of the premises”

        Which I’ve done. I’ll say it again: you argue “We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition”. So what if our moral intuitions tell us that the genocide of the Canaanites was immoral? Are those intuitions to be trusted now or not?

        You’re trying to have it both ways. If our moral intuitions tell us something is wrong then you call that evidence of a perfectly moral God’s existence. But if our moral intuitions make us feel repulsed by the actions of a the character of God in the OT – you tell us our moral intuitions make no sense in that situation.

        “I never said that we accept the existence of objective morality ‘without evidence’. We do have evidence: from our moral experience. If you deny that evidence, then why not also be a solipsist? That’s my argument.”

        No Paul, that’s not what you said in your above article. Here’s what you said:

        “Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism.”

        You did NOT say “Denying the existence of something that you have evidence for leaves you with solipsism”. You clearly said that rejecting something for which you have no evidence leaves you with solipsism. The two are completely different.

        “If God does not exist, why would torturing people for fun be wrong.”

        If God DOES exist, why would torturing people for fun be wrong? You’ve not shown why God’s existence makes any difference to the rightness or wrongness of torture.

        “Objective morality (explanandum) is best accounted for by God”

        How? In what way would the existence of God account for OM?

        “An explanation, by definition, is the providing of a justification”

        I don’t think you’ve done that. You’ve just said that God existing would provide a justification. That’s no better than saying a sleeping pill works due to its ‘dormative properties’.

        • Paul Rezkalla

          “Which I’ve done. I’ll say it again: you argue “We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition”. So what if our moral intuitions tell us that the genocide of the Canaanites was immoral? Are those intuitions to be trusted now or not?”

          You aren’t attack either premise of the argument that I offered for God being the best explanation for moral facts. Again, here is the original argument:

          1. Objective morality cannot exist unless God exists.

          2. Objective morality exists.

          3. Therefore, God exists.

          Your point about the Caananites does not attack either premise of this argument.

          I still stand by my point here, “Denying the existence of something on the basis of, ‘I will not believe unless I have evidence for it’ leaves you with solipsism.” You have no evidence for the reality of the external world, and yet you still believe it. So you aren’t justified in saying, “I will not believe unless I have evidence for it.”

          “If God DOES exist, why would torturing people for fun be wrong? You’ve not shown why God’s existence makes any difference to the rightness or wrongness of torture.”

          Well, you were the one who originally said, “Then it [morality] should apply whether or not God thinks it’s true, or indeed whether or not God even exists – otherwise you’d using special pleading.” And I simply challenged you on how you could substantiate this kind of normative claim on naturalism. I didn’t bring up this issue, you did. My goal in this post wasn’t to explain and defend the Moral Argument.

          Lastly, you still think that I’ve failed to provide an explanation for morality. I think you’re misunderstanding the difference between an explanation and a good explanation. I have offered an explanation. You, obviously, do not think that it is a good explanation. But you can’t accuse me of not providing an explanation. That’s just silly. You can disagree, yes, that’s your opinion.

          • Andrew Ryan

            I don’t need to provide any explanation to critique your position. Yours doesn’t win by default. And no, you haven’t offered an explanation, good or otherwise. Just saying “God existing would explain objective morality” is not an explanation. HOW would God’s existence explain it and why? Why does OM flow from His existence?

            “You’re the one who said”
            My point was that if you’re making a condition for OM’s existence then it stops being objective. If you said 1+1 can only equal 2 if God exists then you’re placing a condition on it – it’s only true SUBJECT to that condition, and hence isn’t an objective fact.

            “You aren’t attacking either premise…”
            I’m attacking the arguments you used in your article. If you want me to attack the premises, 1) you’ve not explained how God would account for the existence of OM, only said you don’t think it can exist without it, which is in itself an argument from ignorance and 2) you’ve not shown that OM exists in the first place.

            • Paul Rezkalla

              “HOW would God’s existence explain it and why? Why does OM flow from His existence?”

              Moral laws require a moral law giver. If there are moral laws, then there must be a moral law giver. That’s one possibility.

              “My point was that if you’re making a condition for OM’s existence then it stops being objective. If you said 1+1 can only equal 2 if God exists then you’re placing a condition on it – it’s only true SUBJECT to that condition, and hence isn’t an objective fact.”

              Giving conditions for when a statement may be true therefore automatically makes that statement subjective? That’s silly. The statement 1+1=2 is true only if abstract objects exist. That conditional does nothing to remove the objectivity from 1+1=2.

              ” If you want me to attack the premises, 1) you’ve not explained how God would account for the existence of OM, only said you don’t think it can exist without it, which is in itself an argument from ignorance and 2) you’ve not shown that OM exists in the first place.”

              See how your argument has shifted now that I’ve pointed out that the Caananites objection is not aimed at the moral argument? You now have different objections and these are aimed at my premises. That’s fine, but I stated that I am not defending the truth of the moral argument in this article; I was simply showing that the Caananites objection does nothing to attack the MA.

              • Andrew Ryan

                “See how your argument has shifted now that I’ve pointed out that the Caananites objection is not aimed at the moral argument?”

                My argument hasn’t shifted. You said “We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition”. Most people’s ‘moral intuitions’ leads them to find the massacre of the Caananites repellant. That undermines your argument – you can’t have God as being the source of morality and our moral intuitions if the same God is performing acts that our moral intuitions tell us is wrong.

                “The statement 1+1=2 is true only if abstract objects exist.”

                1+1=2 is true in ALL possible universes. Whereas you are clearly arguing that if God didn’t exist, then, for example, torturing babies wouldn’t be wrong.

                “If there are moral laws, then there must be a moral law giver”

                That’s not answering the question. That’s no better than saying a sleeping pill works due to its dormative qualities – it’s answered nothing. Further, its like saying the laws of logic must have been created by a being. Such an assertion suggests different logical laws could have been possible, which is plainly false (even to assert what those laws could have been would be akin to contradicting yourself).

          • Andrew Ryan

            “You have no evidence for the reality of the external world, and yet you still believe it.”

            I’ve no reason not to accept reality as it is presented to me. Sure, EITHER of us could conceivably be just brains in vats, being given fed falsehoods by a scientist. But pondering such a notion gets us nowhere – leaving aside that we’ve no reason to think that is the case, what on earth does is it have to do with you attempting to present the moral argument? If you believe you have good arguments and decent evidence to support those arguments, why also argue that it is unreasonable to ask for evidence for a premise before one accepts it? That sounds like the tactic of someone who lacks confidence in their evidence

            • Paul Rezkalla

              “I’ve no reason not to accept reality as it is presented to me. ”

              Do you have a reason to not accept the reality of a moral framework on the basis of our moral experience? You are being inconsistent in your skepticism. I argued that we know morality in the same way that we know that the external world is real. You accept the latter without evidence and argued, “I’ve no reason not to accept reality as it is presented to me.” That’s exactly what I argued for about objective morality: ” In the absence of defeating evidence, we are justified in trusting our experience of the external world. In the same way, I think we can know that objective morality exists on the basis of our moral experience. We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition. Unless we have good reason to distrust our moral experience, we are justified in accepting the reality of the objective moral framework that it presents us with.”

              • Andrew Ryan

                “We have access to moral facts about the universe through our moral intuition”

                If I’m wrong about the table being in front of me, when I place an object on top of it then it will fall to the ground. My senses CAN play me false in certain situations, but generally I get constant feedback that my view of reality is pretty accurate.

                By contrast, you seem to be using the term ‘facts’ in a completely different sense when you say “moral facts”. What does such a phrase even mean? How would one test for ‘moral facts’? What empirical evidence are you using beyond that certain acts make you ‘feel’ a certain way? How can they be demonstrated?

                And I’m pretty sure I’ve already pointed out that even if you argue that a God is making you feel that way, it would say nothing about the rightness or wrongness of the ‘moral facts’.

              • Andrew Ryan

                “Do you have a reason to not accept the reality of a moral framework on the basis of our moral experience?”

                I don’t even know what you mean by ‘reality of a moral framework’. What exactly is it you are saying exists, and what is supposed to be telling me that it exists, and why would that thing not exist without a God?

                Creating a ‘moral law’ isn’t the same as creating a table. What exactly does it mean to create a moral law? Is the God making decisions about what laws to create, or are they just flowing from his nature? Where does he get the authority to create them? Is baby-torture wrong because it’s against God’s nature, or is ‘don’t torture babies’ part of God’s nature because it is wrong? If the former, it seems to suggest that a different nature might have meant baby torture was fine, if not compulsory. In other words, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about it.

                If you found out that God actually DID command baby torture (Satan had somehow tricked you previously into arguing against baby torture as part of his diabolical plan) would you therefore conclude that baby torture is moral?

              • Andrew Ryan

                “I argued that we know morality in the same way that we know that the external world is real.”

                And I don’t think you have a basis to make that comparison. The feelings you call your ‘moral intuitions’ sound closer to simple instincts to me.

                Some people have instincts to avoid snakes and spiders; many people have knee-jerk reactions against physically disabled people. Taller men and men and women with more symmetrical faces (which we judge more attractive) on average get paid more than shorter, plainer people, even in jobs where height and looks play no part. It’s seems we have instincts to see certain physical types more favourably. But does this translate into some ‘framework’ that exists on the same level as the physical world?

                I’d say not. The feelings can be explained in other ways.

                1) We empathise with the suffering of others – when we see others suffer, it’s almost like we feel it too. We know how it feels, we imagine how they feel. So their suffering makes us feel very uncomfortable.
                2) We respond very strongly to child-like faces (even to animals with baby faces). Little round faces with big eyes and long lashes actually cause chemical differences to our brains. Oxytocin or whatever is released and we feel more protective of the owner of that face.
                3) We have a strong instinct to protect the young of our species. I’ll call it an instinct because it’s shared by most other social mammals.
                4) Even from a purely intellectual level it makes sense to protect the young of our species. To cite the cliche, they are our future.

                So what are ‘moral intuitions’ telling us? When we see something that strikes us as ‘immoral’ then (put very simplistically) it’s most likely something that’s causing harm and instinctively we prefer to stop that harm. We would EXPECT any social species to evolve such an instinct – it’s a species-preserving trait, and indeed a life-preserving trait.

  • Glen Carrigan

    This article really doesn’t say much does it, just dancing around nicely in the world of philosophy. I enjoy philosophy and agree that it can help us understand morality, but dated and extremely hypothetical arguments that apologists cling to like these cheapen the discipline that enspires much real discovery and helps us to understand each other. Throw a bit of psychology, neurology and physics into the religious and philosophy studies and you might get somewhere. What’s more likely? god’s morality or for that matter any objective morality or man’s attempt at it?

    Being able to imagine god or the matrix doesn’t make it likely. However, accepting that the world is real on the basis of physics (subjectively discovered objective facts about the universe that a verifiable) makes sense. After all you entrust the rest of your life to scientifically verifiable facts such as when you drive your car, stand up and even what happens to your body after death. The same physics tells us what we are, what our brains are made of and neurology and psychology shows us much about how we work including that our experiences are a product of the physical brain; brain death accounting for the end of our experience (any other argument is bandying words). Everything else still exists outside of an individuals narrow experience. There’s a scale of probability and objective morality god’s or otherwise is at the improbable end (pegasus is more likely), mans’ attempts to create a moral framework subjectively are at the probable end.