Ep 31 – Is God a Moral Monster?
In episode 30, I went through some of my arguments against objective morality. I want to continue on this trip into the realm of morals because it’s such an important topic. The argument I presented was that objective morality does not exist in the form of morals without context. My reasoning behind this was based on the theory of evolution and the environment in which our species evolved. I said you cannot have morals without context and while there may be universal moral truths unique to humans, the idea of a moral lawgiver is without evidence. I proposed that by using science, understanding of human nature and using logic and reason, humans can come-up with a moral system that closely resembles objective morality but is more inline with universal human moral truths.
The Theist will argue that objective moral truths do exist and they come from their god. I responded by presenting the Euthyphro dilemma which states: are the morals of God right because God says so or does God say so because they are objectively right? I reasoned that if you come to this conclusion via so special revealed knowledge, you are engaging in special pleading. But, if you say you came to this conclusion based on logic and reason, I argue that you don’t need a moral lawgiver, you can come to these conclusion by using logic and reason. God need not apply. If God’s morals are arbitrary, then they cannot be objective and the discuss breaks down. If, you can use logic and reason to arrive at objective morals, it stands to reason that God should be able to stand up to these moral truths. This is what I am going to do in this episode. I’m going to take some of the moral understandings from some of the best philosophers and apply them to the God of the bible. Let me preface with that I am using the actions and inactions of the God presented in the bible. I’m not concerned with the slight-of-hands that Christian theologians pull to try to polish their God. I am reading the bible as it is written. I don’t care what Christian theology says, I care what the bible says. I don’t want to know nor do I care what spin you put on it. Now, let’s get right into it and ask: Is God a moral monster?
I’m going to take three systems of ethics and see how the God of the bible compares.. The first is Deontological ethics. This moral philosophy centers around which choices are morally required, forbidden or permitted. Deontology is a moral theory that guides and assess our choices of what we ought to do. So with this moral theory, we judge the morality of an action based on the action’s adherence to a rule or rules. God gives these rules to the Israelites and if they fail to follow these rules, they suffer punishment or the wrath of a vengeful God. For this example, we will look at Knat’s categorical imperative. This categorical imperative has three formulations. The first formulation is that a moral proposition that is true must be one that is not tied to any particular conditions, including the identity of the person making the moral deliberation. In Knat’s words: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.”
The second formulation, which states that every rational action must set before itself not only a principle, but also an end. When combined with the first formulation, Knat states that a person has a perfect duty not to use the humanity of themselves or others merely as a means to some other end.
The third formulation is stated like this: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means.” Now, there is a lot of detail and nuance to this moral philosophy but for the sake of this discussion, we need not go any deeper. Basically, the categorical imperative says don’t use other as a means to an end. If you use your humanity or the humanity of others as a means to an end, you are acting in an immoral fashion. How does God stack-up against the moral imperative?
We don’t even have to look at the Old Testament for this one, although we could but instead let’s look at the person of Jesus. If Jesus is human (or half-god half-human) he would fall under this moral imperative. As we can see, God uses Jesus as a means to an end without regard for his suffering. According to the logic of the categorical imperative, God fails. One could argue that it is necessary for Jesus to suffer because of the need for salvation but that is a problem for Christian Theology to figure out, not moral philosophy.
Moving on we’re going to look at consequentialism, where what matters in ethics are only the consequences of one’s actions. This is utilitarianism which states that an act is morally right if and only if that act maximizes the good, that is, if and only if the total amount of good for all minus the total amount of bad for all is greater. Or simply put, for the greater good.
Before I go on, I want to address a rI am going to be looking atThe theist may respond with “you don’t know God’s plan” or “rewards are obtain in heaven, not on Earth” or “you don’t understand Christian theology.” These are indeed a type of response but I wouldn’t call them valid responses. Yes, we have to unpack a ton of Christian theology but let’s just look at it on the surface. What evidence do we have for an afterlife or for God’s so called plan? None that I can think of so all we have to go on is what is written in the BIble and not what Christians theologians try to spin.
On to salvation. Here is the wikipedia definition of salvation: Salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. That seems like a pretty straight-forward definition. What has been the consequences of Jesus’s sacrifice? We don’t have evidence of an afterlife and nor any evidence of God’s plan. All we can judge is what we have experienced as humans living on this planet. The record of human history since the sacrifice of Jesus is pretty telling. The vast amount of human misery, death and destruction is pretty evident the the bad far outweigh the good when it comes to Jesus’s sacrifice. Without getting into a discussion about souls and salvation, given the historical record, I don’t see much of a benefit from this sacrifice. Remember, we are judging God’s actions towards his son and the resulting consequences.
We can, however, see that modernization has lead to our overall wellbeing. Modern medicine and technology has increase our quality of life. We have an abundant food supply and we are living longer. Can we attribute this to Jesus or to human progress?
Last up in our judgement of God, we look at virtue ethics. For this we use Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. The point of this ethical framework is not assessing individual moral actions, instead, it focuses on having a good character from which proper actions follow. Does God have the type of character that would produce proper moral actions? Aristotle’s table of virtue and ethics will help us determine God’s character. The table starts with a sphere of action or feeling and the next column gives us the excess of that action or feeling, followed by the mean and finally the deficiency. We should strive for the mean. At the top of the list we see confidence and fear. The mean for this is courage, the excess is rashness and the deficiency is cowardice. God constantly comes across as rash, as in flooding the earth or sacrificing his son. Seems like a character defect. Next is pleasure and pain with excess being self-indulgence, the mean is temperance and insensibility is the deficiency. When it comes to the suffering of God’s children, he has none. He kills indiscriminately and the very idea of inflicting the pain of crucifixion onto his son reeks of self-indulgence. Next category is honor and dishonor, God has excess which lead to vanity in thinking his single act can save the entirety of free thinking beings. For the anger category, God has the excess which entails being easily provoked or quick to anger. Next we have self-expression and an excess of boastfulness. For social conduct, God has a deficiency and is cantankerous, meaning difficult to get along with. For shame, God has a deficiency which is shamelessness and for indignation, God has a deficiency which leads to malicious enjoyment or spitefulness. All character defects.
Given all these virtues, God appears to not have the character to have virtuous character and Christians claim this is the example of how to live our lives? Our world would be far worse if believers actually followed God’s character traits and examples. Thankfully they don’t. This leaves God as a miserable failure.
So What? What does all this really matter in the grand scheme of things? If the God of the Bible is truly the God that created the universe, he can act in whichever way he chooses. What obligation does God have to behave in a way that is satisfactory to us mere mortals? This is where Christians or any Abrahamic religion get themselves in trouble. If God is the source of our morality and objective morality exist, then we can judge God’s actions based on our understanding of morality. If God’s actions are arbitrary, then he can behave any way he wants and if we are to take our moral ques from him, what is to stop us from behaving the same way? If God fails our basic understanding of morality, the morality we arrived at using logic and reason, why worship him? Why not say that we can learn our morals via logic and reason? We don’t need God. Now, if this God did exist, then you would need him for salvation but God comes across as a parent that says “do as I say not as I do.” If this is the case, God is not the source of our morals and if he is not, we have no need for this God. Like I said before, Christians would have an easier time arguing for their God if they could somehow distance themselves from the Old Testament but they can’t. Jesus depends on too many things in the Old Testament for them to do that. The gnostic writers had a sense about this but their theology didn’t win. That is why we have brilliant minds rationalizing atrocities. Taking into account everything I just said, the reality is that the followers of this god are infinitely more moral than there god.