I received this comment in the thread under my post Debunking Myself: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been. I am answering it here in a new post because that comment stream is getting long and the topic deserves its own thread. The post consists of five questions:
1 – Is there an absolute truth, absolute morals? Is it wrong, what happens in school or mass shootings? Was Hitler wrong to practice genocide? Is stealing wrong?
Of course truth is “absolute” in the sense that A is A and not “not A”. But that’s trivial. The word “absolute” doesn’t add any meaning as far as I can tell. What is the difference between “truth” and “absolute truth”?
Truth is, of course, relative to context. For example, it is absolutely true that 1 + 1 = 2 in the infinite field of Natural Numbers N, but that same equation is absolutely false in the finite prime field of order 2, GF(2). You can read all about it here.
As you can see, the word “absolute” adds nothing to the concept of truth. The statement “A is A” is absolute no matter what “A” may represent.
Likewise, the word “absolute” adds nothing to the meaning of morality. What is the difference between something that is actually wrong vs. absolutely wrong?
Your question indicates that you have never really thought about the philosophy of morality at all. Things are right or wrong depending on how they affect self and others. It has absolutely nothing to do with any god, real or imagined. Your question is like asking if arithmetic would become false if there were not a god. I explain my position in this article Morality is Objective, Like a Pair of Scales: Another Fatal Flaw in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument for God.
2 – If so, why? What is the source of that morality? If it is absolute, where does it come from?
It comes from the meaning of the words “just” and “fair” and “objective” as I explain in the link above.
Majority opinion? That can change. Perhaps it was the majority who allowed Hitler to do the things he did. Perhaps the majority opinion on right and wrong can be changed by propoganda and manipulation. Does that mean now stealing is just? I would say no.
It doesn’t come from an “opinion” any more than 1 + 1 = 2 is an “opinion.” Morality is based fundamentally on the concept of “objectivity” which itself is the foundation of concepts like “fair” and “just.” It’s so simple we teach it to children by merely asking if they would like to be treated the way they treat others. This immediately awakens their moral intuitions which are based on empathy, reason, fairness, justice, and objectivity. You can read more about this in my article The Golden Rule and the Foundation of Objective Morality.
If you would say ‘no’ also, why and where does your moral standard come from?
Morality is based on things like love, empathy, reason, fairness, justice, and objectivity. The judgments are based on objective logic and motivated by love, which has both subjective and objective elements. I explain my moral theory in this article The Logic of Love: A Natural Theory of Morality.
The objective aspect of love is based on the objective property of integrity which is both a moral and an ontological term, as explained in this article: On Integrity as the Highest Value.
Conscience? What if one person’s conscience tells him it is okay to steal a car and punch some one, and another says it is not. Is one right, one wrong, or are they both right? How can they both be right if they hold two conflicting standards. Is 1 + 1 = 2 for me and 1 + 1 = 5 for so and so, and both be right?
A person’s “conscience” as such is not an objective standard. It can be influenced by all sorts of subjective likes and dislikes, biases, cultural prejudices, and so forth. Conscience is nothing like 1 + 1 = 2 which is based on logic, just like morality.
Anyone with a supposed “standard” like “1 + 1 = 5″ is demonstrably deluded and so their judgement cannot be trusted. Such a “standard” is demonstrably false and so would be rejected by all rational people.
Morality is like 1 + 1 = 2 in the infinite field of natural numbers, and 1 + 1 = 0 in the finite field GP(2). The statements look contradictory, but bother are absolutely true when you take into account the context that defines the set to which they apply.
What basis for societal law is there? If murder is illegal because the majority believe it is wrong, but my neighbor believes it is right, does that allow him to murder? No. But if there is no basis for right and wrong, even if he is arrested, he would still be right in his own eyes. My point here is, without God and an absolute standard or morality, there is no basis for any truth and life would really be meaningless, but because we live in an ordered universe, there are scientific laws, and thus a law-giver.
Your question is based on a false premise. God does not supply an “absolute standard.” He could not change the truth if he wanted to, so he is not required to determine or establish the truth. William Lane Craig attempts to avoid this fact by saying that “God’s nature” defines what is good, just, kind, and fair, but that is utterly absurd because those words have definitions that are completely independent of any god, real or imagined. I explain this in detail in my article Morality is Objective, like a Pair of Scales: Another Fatal Flaw in Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument for God
So how do we know that murder is wrong? Because it violates the principles that define morality! Nothing could be simpler or more obvious. All moral principles must be symmetric with respect to an interchange of the actors. In other words, if I do something to you that would be wrong if you did it to me (everything else being equal), the action cannot be moral when I do it.
3 – Assuming for a moment there is an absolute standard. Have you (me or anyone) kept it? Have you stolen, lied, killed, committed adultery? Jesus said whosoever looks with lust at a women commits adultery with her already, in his heart. Showing we are all guilty.
So what? That truth remains whether or not your religion tells you that god has forgiven you! If we are all equally guilty and cannot save ourselves, why then does God save some but not others? The gospel is irrational, unjust, and unkind. It is irrational because it let’s the guilty go free while punishing good people for the “crime” of not believing a story. It is unjust because if god could save one sinner he could save all. Why would he choose to torment some forever when there is absolutely nothing anyone could do about it? It is unkind because it condemns people to eternal torment for the “crime” of being born.
4 – If God is just how should he handle law-breakers? Yes, he is also merciful, but has to be also just by nature. He is merciful not by just saying ‘whatever, I’ll forget about it’ , but by sending His Son to die for the sins of all men who were given to Him by the Father. That is God’s love. That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. So the real question is… not what codes can we find in Scripture, but what does Scripture say, right there, no hidden meanings?…
According to you, everyone was born ungodly so Christ must have died for everyone. Why then are some still condemned? The gospel makes no sense.
5 – Repent of our sins, cry out “God be merciful to me a sinner!” and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trust to God’s mercy, and embark on walking in the Spirit, putting to death the works of the flesh.
Sorry, but I’ve been there and done that as much as any believer I’ve ever seen. If it didn’t work before, how could it work now? Let me remind you of what I believed when I was a Christian for nearly two decades:
Since I began this website back in 2001, and during most of the decade that followed, I identified myself as a “Bible-believing Christian” in no uncertain terms. For example, here is how I described myself in my old FAQ (which remains on the old version of my site for historical purposes):
Are you a Christian? Protestant? Catholic?
Praise God, I am a man saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesian 2:8). I am a non-denominational blood-bought Bible-believing Trinitarian Christian. I believe that the true “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) is well stated in the early creeds of the church that Christ founded.
Likewise, here is my testimony about the purpose of my website on the old homepage:
To this end I labour, to glorify the Triune God; to glorify the Father Almighty, Creator of all, to glorify His Son Jesus Christ my Saviour and Hope, and to glorify the Giver of all divine gifts, my Comforter, Guide, Teacher and Friend, God the Holy Spirit. To You be the glory, thrice holy blessed God of Eternity! To You be the glory, now and forevermore. Amen. Amen. Amen.
And here are the thanks I gave to Christ on my old About page:
I remain eternally grateful to my Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, for shedding His Light upon me and guiding my path – usually without my knowledge – and giving me both the burning desire and the ability to proclaim the neverending wonders of His Holy Word. Oh! The wonders of His Grace! Had He left me to myself, doubtless I’d be dead or wandering aimless and lost through this dark world. Thank you, my Lord!
So, that’s what I believed when I was a Christian. You are telling me to do what I’ve already done, quite sincerely, I might add. I see no reason to think it would change anything if I did it again. I was a believer and I wanted it to be true but finally came to realize it was not. Simple as that.