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My Point in the Pro-Abortion Issue

October 17 2006
So I think I already remarked about why I really brought up the verses in the Pro-Abortion post.  It was mainly to bring up the fact that god of the Bible commanded violence and that this is dangerous (you can read the remarks for an explanation of why).  Anyway, the following is writing on the issue of atheists being moral.  Often times when people find I am an atheist, they think me and my "kind" are the ones causing problems in society.  In fact, religion is most often the cause of death.  Usually, Atheists do not kill other people because they believe in god or because atheists are without morals.   I do have high morality and respect for humanity.  That is why I wanted to say something about the dangerous beliefs in Christianity- mainly in fundamentalism.  They are dangerous in all religions that say god is the ultimate authority for good, bad, whatever and that he can command whatever he wants and it will be right.  The writing below addresses the problem of good and god.  Please feel free to tell me what you think.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

What is Atheism?

by Douglas E. Krueger

How Can Atheists Have Morals?

p.26 - 30

1. The Euthyphro Dilemma is effective against the view that god is the source of morality.

The Euthyphro dilemma, named after some insightful points taken from
Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, shows the failing of the divine command
theory of ethics, which is the view that god is the source of morality.
In the dialogue, the character Socrates, speaking for Plato, meets the
character Euthyphro, who is on his way to court to prosecute his own
father for the murder of a field laborer. For the Greeks, loyalty to
one's relatives was a matter of great importance, so Socrates asks
Euthyphro whether he is certain this act will not be offensive to the
gods; i.e., whether it is immoral. Euthyphro assures Socrates that he
is an expert in matters pertaining to the wishes of the gods, and in
the course of the discussion Euthyphro attempts to defend the divine
theory of ethics. According to this view, we know what is good only
because god tells what is good. However, as Plato asked 2,000 years
ago, does god command what is good because god recognizes what is good,
or is it good because god commands it? That is the dilemma, and each of
the options turns out to be undesirable to the theist.

a. One horn of the dilemma is that what is good is defined by the fact that it's god's will.

On the one hand, if something god commands is to be defined as good on
the grounds that it is god's will, then the divine command theorist
must admit that anything can be considered good as long as god commands
it. It would make no sense to ask whether god's commands are good. God
could command someone to bash infants to death, to commit genocide, to
stone people to death (and other atrocities such as we find in the
bible), and such things would by definition be good acts, since god
commanded them.

Would a Christian want to commit to such as system of ethics where anything goes? The philosopher Bertrand Russell notes:

If the only basis of morality is God's decrees, it follows that they
might just as well have been the opposite of what they are; no reason
except caprice could have prevented the omission of all the "nots" from
the Decalogue.

In other words, the ten commandments (the Decalogue) could have been
just the opposite of what they are and they would, on this view, still
be good because they would still be the will of god and that is the
definition of good. Theists who take this horn of the Euthyphro dilemma
must admit that they really don't have a standard of ethics. What they
have is a standard of obedience -- they will do whatever god commands.
Slavery, however, is not ethics.

It would also make no sense to say that god is good if god is the
standard of goodness. After all, if god is good, in the sense that god
is identical with standard of goodness, then to say "God is good" is
merely to say "God is god," which is an uninformative statement. A
devil worshiper could say the same thing about the being he or she
worships -- "Satan is what he is." The subject and the predicate are
the same object, so the sentence is uninformative. The relationship
between goodness and god loses its meaning if god is the standard of
goodness, so "god is good" would say nothing.

Further, if one would like to know whether a given being is god, there
would be no set of standards with which one could compare that being in
order to identify it as god. For example, if one wants to know how to
recognize a generous person, one could have a list of actions which one
might expect a generous person to perform. The list could include such
things as giving a certain percentage of one's income to the poor,
handing out money when approached by beggars, volunteering at a local
food bank, and other such activities. Similarly, the list could exclude
activities such as obsessively hoarding money, refusing to share any
part of an inheritance with one's siblings, and so on. The list of
criteria is compiled using the concept of generosity. If the person
measures up to the standard, then we can declare that person generous.
In the case of god, however, there can be no such moral standard for
theists who insist who insist that god is the standard. There can be no
list of criteria to identify whether a being is the good god. If god
can can perform or command any act because he sets the standard, what
kinds of acts could possibly be put on an identification list? One
could never say, "An evil being might command this, but god never
would." No action could be required or ruled out with regard to god
since that being could always decide to perform or command the opposite
of any given criterion. After all, god sets the standard, doesn't he?
Without an independent standard of moral or immoral acts against which
to measure god, god could never be identified by his moral standing.
Thus, morally speaking, there would be no way to distinguish being a
slave to an evil demon as opposed to being a slave to god. In both
cases the one doing the commanding could command anything whatsoever
and carrying out that command would be, by definition, a good act. No
act would be considered immoral in and of itself, or good in and of
itself, apart from the issue of whether it has been commanded or
forbidden. Anything from rape to murder would be considered good if it
were commanded by the being who serves as the standard.

No act could be taboo for the being giving commands because that being
who defines goodness would not have any independent standard of
morality by which it could be limited to a certain set of acts. The
being could not be bound by any moral code.

The only immoral act, on this view, is disobedience. The follower would
be committed to a system of blind obedience to a being who cannot be
meaningfully called good. Clearly, this option is undesirable for the

b. The other horn of dilemma is that god recognizes what is good and then wills what is good.

On the other hand, if the theist chooses the other horn of the dilemma,
that god commands that which god recognizes as good, then the theist is
admitting that there is a standard of goodness independent of god, and
is, in fact, admitting that god is not the source of morality. In other
words, if the view is that god in some way "sees" what is good and then
tells us what to do on the basis of that, then god is not the source of
morality, since the act god commands was observed to be good by god,
not made good by god. God becomes, at best, merely an intermediary or a
reporter about ethics, but he is not the source. This option, too, is
undesirable for the theist, since it admits that god is not the source
of ethics, and if god is not the source of ethics then there is nothing
in principle which could show that the atheist cannot have an ethical
system also.

Thus, the theist must choose between admitting that he or she has no
standard of ethics but merely a principle of slavery, or admitting that
god is not the source of morality. Neither option allows for the
possibility that god is the source of a system of ethics. The Euthyphro
dilemma has been conclusive in showing that the divine command theory
of ethics cannot work, and no theist has ever been able to overcome
this strong objection to the view that god is the source of ethics.

Sam-Graham Jinn (Graham Wells)

October 17 2006
I dont have the time to think about it right now, but it occurs to me that you might seriously enjoy talking to Jerel, the new AO minister. He's got a good logical mind and if nothing else, it could be fun/interesting for both of you.


October 17 2006