Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?

William Lane Craig in his debate with Peter Slezak, at 68 minutes in says: "I think that if you agree with me that there are certain things that are really right and wrong like child abuse, cruelty, and slavery then you will agree with me that we need God as a transcendent foundation for those objective moral values."

There is a problem though. The God that William Lane Craig is appealing to, Yahweh, does NOT condemn child abuse, cruelty, or slavery. So I simply cannot figure out how Craig's argument is supposed to work! Link

31 comments:

Chris said...

Even if God was a perfectly moral being and morality is somehow founded on God's nature, there has yet to be an objective way to know this. Everything we supposedly "know" about God has only come through subjective "revelations" or "spiritual feelings" from prayer or whatnot. At best they can only say: morality is based on our subjective interpretation of a god, which we think is perfectly moral. Morality is still subjective.

Ryan Anderson said...
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Ryan Anderson said...

So even if one requires a god to act as the transcendent foundation for what they precieve to be objective moral values, this has less than nothing to with if a god actual exists or not.

This is not an argument, it's a common emotional ploy that theist use to win debates, nothing more. "Oh, you don't believe in god? You clearly can't say the [insert horrific crime] was wrong. Haha! Gotcha!".

Seth said...

In this specific issue, it doesn't matter to me what other people need to act right. This is because I don't have access to the entire data and because most of my life I've experienced people acting generally decent even when no one was watching. The levels of indecency I see the most often is engaging in fun activities to which you aren't otherwise supposed to such as teenage sex, recreational drugs, and the occasional "oh man I didn't ring up this product".

There are heinous crimes, but I don't know anybody who has done them personally.

It's my personal opinion that being 100% selfish and 100% smart still leads people to act more altruistic than you would think and simultaneously, I don't think people act that selfishly. If they did, I would imagine a higher percentage of individual and rebellious qualities instead of a two party system, a handful of religions, and a fairly stable democracy.

I don't need God for morality. I care about how other people feel and how I feel and work on a regular basis to balance that everyday.

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

This argument has never seemed to even remotely pass the smell test, let alone stand up to any kind of logical scrutiny.

And absolutely, WLC's God (Jorge's strained defense notwithstanding) absolutely condones slavery, allows for the murder of children, kills his own followers, slaughters his enemies and knowingly condemns human beings to eternal torment and cruelty. WLC's God is a psychopath. A thug. A monster.

Moreover, WHY exactly is any God needed as a transcendent foundation for objective moral values necessary? I have yet to see a convincing case for this. Please Christian commenters. Enlighten us poor (but shockingly moral) atheists.

Mike D said...

Craig bases his argument for "objective morality" on the notion that we sense moral values intuitively. The flaw should be obvious: intuition is by definition subjective.

Further, if our opposition to slavery were both objective and intuitive, why didn't we get rid of it until a mere 150 years ago? Obvious now we would all have a deep sense that slavery is "wrong", but if you'd asked us just a couple hundred years ago, we might not have been so certain.

Morality is clearly a mesh of biologically selected traits, such as our need to live in cooperative groups, and a hefty dose of sociocultural zeitgeists.

Cole said...

I haven't done an in depth study of the issues raised from the Old Testament but I don't think God's revealed will is for us to abuse each other. The way I see it is that God's revealed will is to love God above all else and love your neighbor and your enemies as yourself. We are made in God's image and should love and value one another as such.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works.(Psalms 139:14)


Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more VALUE than they?(Matthew 6:26)


“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)


When we don't value ourselves and each other there are consequences.


Some moral laws are objective, necessary truths. They are true in all possible worlds and therefore exist of metaphysical necessity.

They are therefore timeless, spaceless, and acausal, and it would seem that they are immune to the conditions of concrete existence (e.g, if they're timeless, then they neither come to be nor pass away; if they're acausal, then they seem immune from things causing them to come to be and pass away, etc.)


It's hard to see how metaphysically necessary moral truths could exist in a universe which fails to have creatures capable of making moral decisions for millions (billions?) of years. Morality would have to see, far in advance, the rise of human beings which would use its laws. This gives morality personality, and is not too different from calling on a God.

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

@ Cole,

Please provide evidence or at least an example of this transcendent moral truth that you claim is true in 'all possible worlds.'

Even the most elementary, most BASIC moral truth, one that has been universally true since LONG before humans even possessed speech is that you do not abandon your infants. This moral truth is not the result of any divine revelation, but an absolute biological necessity. At least for humans. This is because our young are completely and utterly helpless.

Yet hundreds of MILLIONS of species on this planet have no such biological imperative. They always abandon their young to fend for themselves and allowing the vast majority to die. It is readily conceivable that the evolution of intelligence in any one of these myriad creatures would generate a moral code WILDLY different from anything we can conveive of.

Our moral code is HUGELY influenced by our basic biology. A creature with a vastly different biology would almost certainly possess a vastly different moral code. Your conjecture regarding moral truths for 'all possible worlds' is therefore baseless speculation that fails to pass the smell test.

Cole said...

Jeffrey,

How about this:

It's wrong to cause a person or animal significant pain without a sufficient reason for doing so.

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

Cole, unless you are a vegan, that dog won't hunt. And possibly not even then. I don't even need to consider 'possible worlds' to throw that one out - this world will do just fine.

Morally Sufficient for whom, the recipient of pain or the doler out of pain? I doubt any of the countless animals slaughtered to feed me would consider maintaining my caloric intake to be a sufficient reason to end their lives. Especially given the fact that there are plent of alternative caloric pathways I could indulge.

If their feelings don't matter, then you're just engaging in the old 'Might Makes Right' game. Next.

matt the magnificient said...

at cole you said
"It's wrong to cause a person or animal significant pain without a sufficient reason for doing so."

"sufficient reason" would be subjective, and defined by culture and species. what I view as sufficient may not be viewed the same way somewhere else in the world, and vice versa.

take bullfighting for example. in some cultures it is quite acceptable, in others, morally repugnant.

Cole said...

Okay, I disagree but how about this:

It is wrong to hate someone because of the color of their skin.

matt the magnificient said...

at cole "It is wrong to hate someone because of the color of their skin."



again, it depends on the individual. the KKK sees nothing wrong with it. also, in africa, albino's are killed for their limbs because it is believed by some that when witch doctors turn the limbs into powder and it is cosumed, it brings great wealth.

"sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species.

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

Cole,

You disagree that it is wrong to hate someone because of the color of their skin?

For humans perhaps, but your claim went FAR beyond that. Your claim is that such would be true in ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS. You really need to try harder.

It is INCREDIBLY easy to imagine a scenario where skin color acts as an accurate indicator or proxy for any manner of undesireable or dangerous trait - disease, cannibalism, sexual deviance, etc. Indeed, bright colors in nature are almost always indicators of posison or toxicity or danger or some creature attempting to mimic those traits to avoid being consumed. In such cases, if they are dangerous and skin color is a relilable indicator of such, it would be perfectaly rational and moral to hate them - in much the same way we hate snakes.

I'm not arguing that there isn't any manner of HUMAN morality that we can apply, simply pointing out that OUR morality is NOT transcendent and is applicable solely to our species and our unique biology. The morality of an intelligent crocodile or intelligent turtle would be VASTLY different from our own because of THIER unique biology. You're just being incredibly anthropocentric.

matt the magnificient said...
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matt the magnificient said...
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matt the magnificient said...

at jeffrey. anthropocentric. I swear i learn 5 new words or terms every day you post something. your an education in and of itself lol

Cole said...

"Morally Sufficient for whom, the recipient of pain or the doler out of pain? I doubt any of the countless animals slaughtered to feed me would consider maintaining my caloric intake to be a sufficient reason to end their lives. Especially given the fact that there are plent of alternative caloric pathways I could indulge."

Jeffery,


I was referring to having a sufficient reason for causing significant pain. Not in consuming the animal.

"It's wrong to cause a person or animal significant pain without a sufficient reason for doing so."

I'm not talking about slaughtering and eating the animal but in causing it intense pain and suffering. Clearly there is disagreement on wheter we should eat animals or not. But we should not cause intense suffering without having sufficient reason for doing so. Would you agree?

matt the magnificient said...

at cole "I was referring to having a sufficient reason for causing significant pain. Not in consuming the animal."

again, BULLFIGHTING. morally approved by a significant percentage of the population of spain.

"sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species.

Jeffrey A. Myers said...

You didn't answer my question - Sufficient reason for WHOM? If you've ever watched a crocodile take down a water buffalo and watched the water buffalo struggle for over an hour, or seen a deer struggle off after being shot it seems quite clear that the the party being killed and suffering having its neck slashed, brain blasted open, etc., does not find the desire to eat to be a sufficient reason to end its life. The fact that we have the power or ability to do so does not necessarily make it morally justified in any transcendent universal sense.

Many would argue that the killing of animals for any reason is wrong. I am actually not one - I like nothing better than a nice rare bacon wrapped steak topped with lobster or crab... mmmmm... But I am not the one arguing for a universal morality that transcends 'all possible worlds.' You are.

The fact is that our sense of morality is inextricably tied to our unique biology. Other species, intelligent or not, CLEARLY are not constrained by what you deem transcendent moral laws.

Many shark species engage in intrauterine cannibalism as a part of their biological maturation process. Does God's transcendent morality apply to them? If it is truly transcendent, it clearly SHOULD. What if they were intelligent beings, would they be damned simply because of their biology?

Cole said...

Matt,

Morality doesn't tell us how the world is but how it ought to be. If Spain takes pleasure out of watching bulls suffer in intense pain then they are wrong. Just as Nazi Germany was wrong.

Ryan Anderson said...

I think the extreme examples work well for the apologist, because they do make us uncomfortable given our cultural conditioning.

However, I think if you dial it back to a fairly mundane example, it's pretty clear that morality is subjective/relative.

For example: I would have considered it one of the biggest derelictions of duty and I would have been consumed with guilt had I spent the evening drinking with friends instead of sitting by my wife's side while she gave birth to our daughter.

However, my dad, did just that. He was a good man, he was a christian, and in the the early 70s in the Midwest, men were not expected to attend the births of their children and celebrating with friends on that night was a time honored tradition.

Seriously, I can't even conceive of doing that, I would have felt terrible.

That doesn't mean it's right or wrong, but rather "right here and now" or "wrong here and now".

Charles said...



The so-called "Divine Command Theory" of morality has had lots of
prominents defenders who have put forth arrays of apologetics presuppositions wich twine together
god (their god), morality and goodness. But apologetic presuppositions do not deductibly
prove that our sense of right and
wrong, and the codes of behavior we
are expected to follow, come from a
supernatural source. There are too
many problems with the concept. The
first problem we run into in this concept is that the existence of this supernatural "Law Giver" has not been empirically proven; and the arguments traditionally given to justify his/her/its existence it
has been shown to have serious flaws. No apologetic arguments put forth--in spite of its lexicon sophistry--for the existence of a
transcendent deity have proven to be generally persuasive or have withstood rigorous critical analysis. So if empirical evidence
for the "Law Giver" has yet to established, how can any one argue
that morality is grounded in his[?] command? And as far as his "goodness" is concerned, it is hard to square a benevolent god with the infliction of physical suffering, the brook of moral evil, the misery of the innocent and the propesrity of the wicked.

To say that such a god is "good" seems to be using the term in a different way than when it is used
to describe human actions. And if "good" for god means something
different than our human criteria of "goodness," how can we then base our morality on such a god?
In fact, what exactly can we know
about such a god?

matt the magnificient said...

at cole, again, morality and "sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species.

"Morality doesn't tell us how the world is but how it ought to be. If Spain takes pleasure out of watching bulls suffer in intense pain then they are wrong. Just as Nazi Germany was wrong."

Spain believes the world ought to have bullfights. Nazi Germany believed they were morally correct in their endevours. if they had won the war, europe would be 75 years into Nazi German morality by now. your version of morality and
"how it ought to be" is different from versions all across the world.

My example of bullfights meets the criteria of the statement you made. "I was referring to having a sufficient reason for causing significant pain. Not in consuming the animal."

The animal has significant pain inflicted to it by picadores, who spear it repeatedly before the grand finale of being killed with one stroke of the matadors sword. often the matador is unsuccessful and needs to be stabbed nultiple times before death. this is thought to be entertaining, and considered "sufficient reason for causing significant pain" by cultures across the world.

morality and "sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species.

Jim said...

Cole,

But we should not cause intense suffering without having sufficient reason for doing so. Would you agree?

Would "sufficient reason" be, for example, someone's extreme pleasure in causing pain to someone else?

If not, what is the subjective definition of "sufficient reason?"

I can pretty much guarantee that whatever you say, I will hear it as "This is way Cole thinks things should be."

But you can always try . . .

Shawn said...

Yes, the currently popular "God is the only one capable of providing objective morality, therefore he must exist", argument.
Spot on Chris. The obvious flaw is that they can't prove what their God's morality is, and even if we accept that they did at some point get the message directly, it appears to have been changed over the centuries (unless you're still in favour of burning witches).

I can accept quite readily that there may be no "objective" morality in the universe. This does not equate to their being no morality at all. When reviewing history it is unarguable that all morality (religious and otherwise) is a continually changing, subjective proposition.
Looking for something to prove that "rape is always wrong" is in my view a flawed pursuit. We would do better by arguing why now and in the future, in our secular society, rape is not acceptable, and (as it is in most countries)punishable at law.
But maybe that's an easy example. What about homosexuality? Where's the moral line here? It has obviously been changing in most of the developed world, (in many countries discrimination on this basis is now illegal) but the "objective" morality of the Christian God says it's still evil.
So we see that in practice in a country such as Australia, society as a whole (referencing the democratic laws of said country) considers homosexuality entirely acceptable, but that a section of said society considers it unacceptable according to their silent and invisible God.
I don't think any intelligent person could argue that these two opposing views represent objective positions. They are subjective opinions of those who choose to take either side.
If God himself comes down and joins in the debate, then it would still be his opinion against the rest, however I'm willing to concede that if he is the creater of the universe, he probably gets the deciding vote.

Cole said...

Jeffrey,

Consider this:

It is morally wrong to torture the innocent just for fun.

Does this not hold in every possible world? Clearly it does. Do you see what I'm saying now?

matt the magnificient said...

at cole you said "Consider this:

It is morally wrong to torture the innocent just for fun."

dog fights. people put two pitt bulls in a ring with nowhere to go, and watch for entertainment as they fight, sometimes to the death.

also, bullfights, again. the animal is speared repeatedly before the fight begins.

also, children with magnifying glasses, setting bugs on fire for pleasure and amusement.

also, serial killers who torture women for pleasure. if you would like a list of names i can provide it. Lawrence Bittaker & Roy Norris would be two examples.

also, rapists, who force sex on women for pleasure. in their mind, they have "sufficient reason" to do these things.

every culture views morality and sufficient reason differently, and every individual within any culture also views morality and sufficient reason differently.

morality and "sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species, as well as within each individual.

matt the magnificient said...

at cole

I would also add bullying, which is a form of torture, to the list. it exists in almost every society on earth. since there is such a large percentage of bullies in the population, does this mean that some of our children are bound by morality to be bullies, until we learn otherwise? did god "chose" these children to be bullies and give them this as morality?

morality and "sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species, as well as within each individual.

Cole said...

Matt,

It's clearly wrong to torture the innocent with intense pain and suffering just for fun. Just because people do those things doesn't make it right. Morality doesn't tell us the way things are. But the way things ought to be.

matt the magnificient said...

at cole

"Morality doesn't tell us the way things are. But the way things ought to be"

morality des NOT tell everybody the way things aught to be. morality ir perceived and interpreted on a cultural and individual basis. everone is different, thinks differently, and sees moraitiy in their own, personal mindset. what is moral for one may very well be immoral for another. not to be crude, but take anal sex for example. some people find it quite pleasurable and desirable, and therfore morally ok to engage in. while others find it painful, repugnant and disgustingly immoral.


again, morality and "sufficient reason" is subjective to culture or species, as well as within each individual.