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Why God Can’t Command Us to Do Evil

Theists and atheists wield many weapons in the battle over the truth of God’s existence. One such weapon for theists is the moral argument, which asserts moral obligation is impossible without God. But since moral obligation is real, so the argument goes, it follows God must exist.

When it seems to the theist he has conquered his foe, the atheist grabs his own weapon of choice and fires back. That weapon is what has come to be known as the Euthyphro dilemma, taken from Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro.

Philosopher Scott Sullivan, founder and president of Classical Theist productions, formulates the dilemma as follows:

Premise 1: Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.

Premise 2: If an action is good because God commands it, then God could arbitrarily command any evil act (like torturing babies), and that act would be good, which is absurd.

Premise 3: If God commands an action because it’s already good, then there is a standard of goodness independent of God, in which case God is not necessary for morality.

Conclusion: Since a theist can hold neither option, it follows a theist’s claim that God is necessary for morality is undermined.

This seems to be a “gotcha” moment for atheists. But all we have to do is take each premise and show it doesn’t lead to the absurdities to which it claims to lead and thus in turn show there is no dilemma.

How to know good and bad

First, let’s take premise three. A theist, at least of the classical sort, has no problem in affirming that God commands an action because it’s good. Now, my theist buddies might be thinking, “Why are you affirming the antecedent of premise three? Doesn’t it imply a standard of goodness independent of God?” No. Let me explain why it doesn’t.

In the natural moral law tradition as articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas and others, what is good and bad for human beings is determined by the various capacities and ends set for us by nature. So, for example, nature directs us to preserve our own lives. This is something we share with all living things. Nature also directs us to preserving our species through procreation and rearing of children—something we share with animals specifically. Finally, nature directs us to certain ends or goals that are peculiar to us as rational animals: namely, to know the truth about God, live in society, shun ignorance, and avoid harming those with whom one has to live.

The whole understanding of good and bad is based on these goods of human nature. Any behavior that facilitates the achievement of these natural ends is considered good—that is to say, it will fulfill human nature. Any behavior that frustrates the achievement of these natural ends is considered bad—that is to say, it won’t bring about human flourishing.

God commands because an act is good

Now, God commands all actions that facilitate the achievement of our natural ends; i.e., the good, and prohibits actions that frustrate them; i.e., the bad, because he wills our perfection. So, we can say God commands certain actions because they’re good.

But this doesn’t mean a standard of goodness exists independently of God. First of all, as a universal, human nature preexists in the divine intellect as an archetype by which God creates. As such, the ordering of human nature is an expression of God’s will—it is of his making. Therefore, the measure of goodness for man¬—i.e., human nature—is not independent of God.

Moreover, God is necessary for human nature to have an act of existence in human beings, both to come into existence and to remain in existence.

So, given the traditional understanding that human nature determines what is good and bad for man, and given the understanding that God is the author of that nature, affirming the idea that God commands something because it is good does not imply a standard of goodness independent of God; thus premise three is not a problem for theists.

Can God command evil?

This leads us to a question that has to do with premise two: “Can God command us to act contrary to our human nature—i.e., do what is evil?” If we can prove the answer is no, then premise two, like premise three, has no persuasive force against theists.

There are two reasons we can put forward for why God can’t will us to act contrary to human nature.

The all-wise God

First, if God were to command us to act contrary to our nature, then he would be violating his infinite wisdom. Why would God create us with a specific nature, and order that nature to certain ends, only to command us to frustrate those ends and thereby violate our nature? That would be unreasonable.

As I wrote in a previous blog, this would be analogous to someone installing an air conditioning system in his home and then turning the system off every time it turns on to cool the house. One might reasonably ask, “Why did you install the air conditioning system in the first place?”

Similarly, it would be unreasonable for God to create us with a nature ordered to certain ends and then command us to frustrate the achievement of those ends. But given the perfection of his intellect God can command only in accordance with reason. And since willing what is good for us is in accordance with reason, it follows God can’t command us to act contrary to our nature. He can only command good actions.

More specifically, God could never command us to torture babies for fun, because torturing babies for fun violates the goods of human nature, both our nature and the babies’ nature. As Brian Davies writes:

God could never command us to torture children because, in effect, that would involve him contradicting himself, or going against his nature as the source of creaturely goodness (The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil, 102).

The all-good God

A second reason why God can’t command evil is that if he were to do so, he would lack in goodness, which is metaphysically impossible, given the classical understanding of God as ipsum esse subsistens—subsistent being itself. According to the doctrine of the transcendentals (aspects of being—e.g., being, one, true, and good—that transcend Aristotle’s categories of being), being and goodness are convertible.

So to say God is subsistent being is the same as saying he is subsistent goodness. And if God is subsistent goodness, then there could be no privation of goodness in him. But to command us to act contrary to human nature, i.e., to do evil, would entail a privation of goodness. Since this is not possible, it’s incoherent to say God could command evil actions. That would be like saying the all-powerful God is too weak to lift a rock he created.

St. Thomas Aquinas takes this line of reasoning:

God is the highest good, as has been shown. But the highest good cannot bear any mingling with evil, as neither can the highest hot thing bear any mingling with the cold. The divine will, therefore, cannot be turned to evil (Summa Contra Gentiles, I:95).

Conclusion

I’ll admit that at first glance the Euthyphro dilemma seems to propose a major obstacle for theists advocating God is necessary for morality. But when a coherent explanation of what constitutes good and bad for human beings is given, and one understands God is the ultimate ground for that standard of good and bad, then the Euthyphro dilemma no longer has any force against a theistic account of morality.

By Karlo Broussard













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11 comments

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Premise 1: Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.
    .
    First you have to prove that this god of yours exists. Without that, the premise is useless and the rest of this article is just blather.
    .
    Premise 2: If an action is good because God commands it, then God could arbitrarily command any evil act (like torturing babies), and that act would be good, which is absurd.
    .
    But your god does command or even conduct countless acts of evil, starting with punishment for two mythical figures who couldn’t know that what they were doing was wrong until after they did it – thereby learning good and evil. Your god commands or conducts genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia. Your god commands that babies from the women of your enemies should be ripped from the womb and their heads dashed on rocks. Yahweh is most certainly, not good, and some early Gnostic gospels that didn’t make it into the canon, confirm that some people in ancient times didn’t think Yahweh was good, and that in fact the role of the cosmic Jesus was to save us from Him.
    .
    Premise 3: If God commands an action because it’s already good, then there is a standard of goodness independent of God, in which case God is not necessary for morality
    .
    Bingo. God is not necessary for morality. The morality of the bible is about the worst case we can envision for a just society. I’m having a hard time even thinking of examples when Yahweh commands an action because it is good.

    1. Dave Reply

      Premise 1 is a false dilemna. The rest doesn’t follow any longer.

      Thank you, Patrick. Perhaps you should read about Natural Law instead of making the old canard of the Euthyphro. See for yourself, it’s here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma#St._Thomas_Aquinas .

      Of course, you’re free to make a deeper commentary of the view espoused by Aquinas. If your commentary is true, I’ll be more than interested to read it.

  2. Dave Reply

    (Though I’m not really sure if you read the article first hand. It sure would be nice for you to avoid restating the mistakes pointed out. 🙂 )

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      I stand by my statement, Dave. The line of argument is dependent on the idea of a god – and there is no evidence for such things. If there is no God (or gods, plural in the case of Socrates), then the rest of the dilemma is moot. If you invoke a god, you have to prove it exists, or there’s no foundation for the rest of the argument.
      .
      Premise 1 doesn’t say: : Either an action is good because natural law commands it, or natural law commands an action because it’s already good, and I’m not sure that would even make sense.
      .
      Do you have any problem if I change it to this: Either an action is good because Zeus commands it, or Zeus commands an action because it’s already good. Don’t I have to prove the existence of Zeus in order for the rest of it to make any sense?

      1. Dave Reply

        I agree with the line of defense that “if there is no God”. For that I don’t see how gods (plural) could bring a sense of morality, unless there is a hierarchy, hence needing one “god” to be “more powerful” than the others, thus rendering them to be not “God(s)”. That’s why I’d say that I’d say it’s a false analogy. If you’re saying that the instance of a polytheistic God (which is more like an immortal being close to a superhuman) is on the same level as the monotheist God (which is Pure Act), then I don’t follow, because it turns into a strawman.

        Don’t use Zeus, it makes a bad analogy. I don’t believe Zeus or the FSM or anything “by reasons that I don’t apply to God”, rather I believe in God for independent reasons.

        It boils down to how you define God and Goodness. For a catholic (which I am), if you want to start the discussion, take the same premise : “God is Goodness”.

        Premise 1 is more : God is Good. If Goodness condemns us to do evil, then there is a contradiction in the terms. If you say “an action is good because Goodness commands it” or “Goodness is because an action is already good”, you’ll see why I reject the dilemma as meaningless.

        Now, you can argue that there is no absolute Goodness, and thus no God (or the opposite), but it would move the argument into definition of morality.

        I’d love to hear on you about it. Even the “Good is relative it’s what I like to feel” for a basis would suffice for me. Don’t take my word for it, instead push my arguments and yours deeper.

        Best, in truth.

        1. Patrick Gannon Reply

          Dave, I only mentioned multiple gods because you invoked “the old canard of the Euthyphro” which leads us to Socrates who believed in multiple gods. Let’s leave multiple gods out of the discussion, as I’m certainly not proposing that – although… (sidebar: “thou shalt have no other gods before me” indicates that there are other gods, we just aren’t supposed to put them ahead of Yahweh).
          .
          You didn’t like that I suggested substituting the word “God” with “Zeus” but that’s the whole point. It’s not a bad analogy at all. If I proclaim that “Either an action is good because Zeus commands it, or Zeus commands an action because it’s already good,” then clearly the burden is on me to prove Zeus exists in the same way we have to prove Yahweh exists if we go with the original premise: Either an action is good because Yahweh commands it, or Yahweh commands an action because it’s already good. To move the premise forward we first have to prove that Yahweh exists, in the same way I would have to prove Zeus exists, if I made that argument. Without first proving Yahweh exists, the rest of the article is moot.
          .
          Why do we need the word God, if “God is goodness?” We already have the word “goodness.” If that’s what “god” is, then “god” is just a synonym for “goodness” and has no other inherent meaning. It’s the same with the New Age people who claim that “God is all that IS.” Yeah, well we have a word for that already – it’s called “everything.” The term “god” is being dumbed down to a synonym and hey, I’m OK with that, if that’s where you want to take it – but that sure isn’t the Catholic god – and the Catholic god is anything but good, assuming we’re talking about Yahweh. So not only would you have to prove that “God” exists, but you would also have to prove that He is “good” and the bible won’t be much help with that.
          .
          We can debate morality – I don’t think there is an absolute goodness, only relative goodness; but as you said – that’s another discussion. My only point here is that someone went to a lot of time and effort to write and article that can’t be advanced beyond the first premise, because it assumes the existence of something for which there is no objective evidence – otherwise we wouldn’t be debating it.

      2. Dave Reply

        Well, there, here you go.

        a) If you want to argue with the argument, you have to take into account the premises. For example, you start by saying “well, if there is no god”… and the rest of the argument does not follow. That’s good, because the people making such the argument are atheists, arguing the Euthyphro dilemma. The link I sent you should have been clear that, for me, or Aquinas, the Premise 1(Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.) is *false*.
        Now, I’m sure you can understand, as you kept arguing (?) on a catholic (?) website that you think there is no God (or, if you prefer a politically lazy and philosophically meaningless version, “I don’t believe there is a God”), how I’d feel reading you. “Darn, how can *he* be so dumb/endoctrinated/idiot/whatever not to see the flaws of his argument.” That’s how you come and argue anytime.
        The point here is, *we do not agree* with the *actual Euthyphro dilemna*. That is, it’s like, for us, asking “well, if something is big and tall, is it big because it’s tall or is it tall because it’s big?”. It’s a *meaningless* exercise. The whole article and my response are reasons *why* we’d reject it.
        That’s also why I’d laugh anytime I see your “no evidence”. Basically, you’re saying “there is no evidence for God”, but without saying a) why there should be evidence; b) what you’d consider evidence; c) why you’d say there is no evidence. That’s leaving us with a magnificent “uh, it’s wrong”. Without a *reason* to assume there is. Now, you might say that you don’t have the burden of proof, but I’d reply that it’s exactly *what* is at stake. You can’t just say “heeh, it’s no evidence”. It would be like saying that “there can’t be Z or Y happening because of physical/natural laws” without defining or at least saying what ARE these laws.

        b) I’d agree it doesn’t even make sense. That’s how I see your response, how most theists who abide by natural law see the Euthyphro dilemna. But at least, we give you a *reason* to reject it.

        c) Similarly here, yes, it makes a problem. You’re saying that the polytheistic vision of a deity is the same as the vision of a monotheistic one. Olympian gods are not all powerful, they’re images of superbeings, like immortal heroes : they were born, they live, and some might be even killed when they are stripped of their immortality. On the other side, the Christian god, and any theistic vision of God, is seen not as “a” being, but as “Being” itself. What you’re doing here is, if I take an example, saying “Humanity is extended to all the continents.” and saying, “well, do you have any problems if I change it to ‘My friend Bob is extended to all the continents.’? Do I have to prove that my friend Bob exists for the rest of it to make any sense?”.

        Hope it clarifies the thing.

        Now, you might go around and telling me “well, it’s evidently nonsense, hence I have no burden of proof, you’re just dumb”, but I can just say the same. The goal of a discussion is not to yell the loudest “I have evidence”, “mythical figures”, or similar rhetorical sentences. I don’t mind arguing with you, but I’m not interested in empty verbiage.

        I’ll point why I consider your argument confused. At multiple points, you mention “countless acts of evil”, “worst cases for morality”. I’ll bite. I’ll give you one argument, independent of biblical morality, and say… “well, how so? If I look in the ancient greece, it was morally normal to own slaves. If you look at Sparta, nobody had troubles with killing newborn babies that were deemed useless. Sure, you’re arguing that you don’t see these things as moral, but… on what basis? What makes your morality or our morality better than the ancients? Look, what you claim to be genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, or homophobia, for them, was considered purely normal. What’s your basis for saying that it’s wrong? Because of morality? Let’s say that a dictator comes in tomorrow, and you end up on a minority of people with the same views as yours. Are you still moral?”

        Your argument is pushing for an objective moral principle. What we, theists, say, is that this principle is God. Arguing that God doesn’t exist is one thing, arguing that the biblical god is not the real God is another.

        You can say that it’s pointless to discuss about that. You can say that we’re deluding ourselves, or that we’re cowardly deluded people. Perhaps you’re saying that morality doesn’t exist. But I’d say that I’d rather be wrong, yet still do something while realizing that I might be wrong; than amending my view on a “I don’t believe” and refusing to take a stance. I’m alright with people not believing. Seeing someone coming here and saying “well, God orders moral evil” on one side, then using an argument looking like “my morality is better than the others” and “here is an objective moral principle” that correspond to a depiction of a god… I’d call that inconsistency. You can argue for suspension of belief, but reality doesn’t care of “maybe’s”. And seeing you coming here with miscomprehensions and skeptical charges doesn’t help the debate.

        Hope it will suffice.

        In truth,

        D.

        1. Patrick Gannon Reply

          “Arguing that God doesn’t exist is one thing, arguing that the biblical god is not the real God is another.” The article is clearly about the biblical god, Yahweh. Yahweh is the Catholic god. I’m not arguing about any other gods. What I would argue is that the biblical god has been dethroned and rendered obsolete given the lack of foundation to support Him. There was no six day creation, no global flood, no Exodus from Egypt, and no Conquest of Canaan. Without these things, there is no basis for Yahweh, and that gets us back to Premise 1. If there is no god, the rest of the argument is moot.
          .
          The title of the article is “Why God can’t command us to do evil” but I’ve read the book, and He does command or condone evil, over and over again. We know what good and evil are. Even Genesis 3:22 tells us this. That primitive people used imaginary invisible beings who live in the sky in order to justify their idea of morality, doesn’t make it right. They didn’t know any better. We know slavery is evil, and those enslaved probably knew it as well! Yahweh didn’t know slavery was immoral because He is the creation of primitive, sexist, violent men trying to understand their universe. It’s that simple to me. Yahweh, if He exists, is not worthy of worship, and if He exists and sends people to eternal torment as the RCC insists He does, then He is the most evil thing ever created in the mind of man. Fortunately He’s a myth, like Jesus. If He turns out to be real, then I will burn in moral superiority to your god.
          .
          Dave, your line of thought is more than I can follow. I do not follow half of your arguments. I’m sorry, but we have different ways of communicating, and I think we’re just talking past each other. Perhaps we can meet again in a different thread. I’m done here. I made my point. The argument is dependent of the existence of something that is not proven to exist, thus there is no need to go any further, other than as an intellectual exercise, and I have no further interest in that intellectual exercise. Prove the existence of your god, and we can come back and debate the other premises.

      3. Dave Reply

        Patrick,

        Well, there, here you go.

        a) If you want to argue with the argument, you have to take into account the premises. For example, you start by saying “well, if there is no god”… and the rest of the argument does not follow. That’s good, because the people making such the argument are atheists, arguing the Euthyphro dilemma. The link I sent you should have been clear that, for me, or Aquinas, the Premise 1(Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.) is *false*.
        Now, I’m sure you can understand, as you kept arguing (?) on a catholic (?) website that you think there is no God (or, if you prefer a politically lazy and philosophically meaningless version, “I don’t believe there is a God”), how I’d feel reading you. “Darn, how can *he* be so dumb/endoctrinated/idiot/whatever not to see the flaws of his argument.” That’s how you come and argue anytime.
        The point here is, *we do not agree* with the *actual Euthyphro dilemna*. That is, it’s like, for us, asking “well, if something is big and tall, is it big because it’s tall or is it tall because it’s big?”. It’s a *meaningless* exercise. The whole article and my response are reasons *why* we’d reject it.
        That’s also why I’d laugh anytime I see your “no evidence”. Basically, you’re saying “there is no evidence for God”, but without saying a) why there should be evidence; b) what you’d consider evidence; c) why you’d say there is no evidence. That’s leaving us with a magnificent “uh, it’s wrong”. Without a *reason* to assume there is. Now, you might say that you don’t have the burden of proof, but I’d reply that it’s exactly *what* is at stake. You can’t just say “heeh, it’s no evidence”. It would be like saying that “there can’t be Z or Y happening because of physical/natural laws” without defining or at least saying what ARE these laws.

        b) I’d agree it doesn’t even make sense. That’s how I see your response, how most theists who abide by natural law see the Euthyphro dilemna. But at least, we give you a *reason* to reject it.

        c) Similarly here, yes, it makes a problem. You’re saying that the polytheistic vision of a deity is the same as the vision of a monotheistic one. Olympian gods are not all powerful, they’re images of superbeings, like immortal heroes : they were born, they live, and some might be even killed when they are stripped of their immortality. On the other side, the Christian god, and any theistic vision of God, is seen not as “a” being, but as “Being” itself. What you’re doing here is, if I take an example, saying “Humanity is extended to all the continents.” and saying, “well, do you have any problems if I change it to ‘My friend Bob is extended to all the continents.’? Do I have to prove that my friend Bob exists for the rest of it to make any sense?”.

        Hope it clarifies the thing.

        Now, you might go around and telling me “well, it’s evidently nonsense, hence I have no burden of proof, you’re just dumb”, but I can just say the same. The goal of a discussion is not to yell the loudest “I have evidence”, “mythical figures”, or similar rhetorical sentences. I don’t mind arguing with you, but I’m not interested in empty verbiage.

        I’ll point why I consider your argument confused. At multiple points, you mention “countless acts of evil”, “worst cases for morality”. I’ll bite. I’ll give you one argument, independent of biblical morality, and say… “well, how so? If I look in the ancient greece, it was morally normal to own slaves. If you look at Sparta, nobody had troubles with killing newborn babies that were deemed useless. Sure, you’re arguing that you don’t see these things as moral, but… on what basis? What makes your morality or our morality better than the ancients? Look, what you claim to be genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, or homophobia, for them, was considered purely normal. What’s your basis for saying that it’s wrong? Because of morality? Let’s say that a dictator comes in tomorrow, and you end up on a minority of people with the same views as yours. Are you still moral?”

        Your argument is pushing for an objective moral principle. What we, theists, say, is that this principle is God. Arguing that God doesn’t exist is one thing, arguing that the biblical god is not the real God is another.

        You can say that it’s pointless to discuss about that. You can say that we’re deluding ourselves, or that we’re cowardly deluded people. Perhaps you’re saying that morality doesn’t exist. But I’d say that I’d rather be wrong, yet still do something while realizing that I might be wrong; than amending my view on a “I don’t believe” and refusing to take a stance. I’m alright with people not believing. Seeing someone coming here and saying “well, God orders moral evil” on one side, then using an argument looking like “my morality is better than the others” and “here is an objective moral principle” that correspond to a depiction of a god… I’d call that inconsistency. You can argue for suspension of belief, but reality doesn’t care of “maybe’s”. And seeing you coming here with miscomprehensions and skeptical charges doesn’t help the debate.

        Hope it will suffice.

        In truth,

        D.

  3. Dave Reply

    Patrick,

    Well, there, here you go.

    a) If you want to argue with the argument, you have to take into account the premises. For example, you start by saying “well, if there is no god”… and the rest of the argument does not follow. That’s good, because the people making such the argument are atheists, arguing the Euthyphro dilemma. The link I sent you should have been clear that, for me, or Aquinas, the Premise 1(Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.) is *false*.
    Now, I’m sure you can understand, as you kept arguing (?) on a catholic (?) website that you think there is no God (or, if you prefer a politically lazy and philosophically meaningless version, “I don’t believe there is a God”), how I’d feel reading you. “Darn, how can *he* be so dumb/endoctrinated/idiot/whatever not to see the flaws of his argument.” That’s how you come and argue anytime.
    The point here is, *we do not agree* with the *actual Euthyphro dilemna*. That is, it’s like, for us, asking “well, if something is big and tall, is it big because it’s tall or is it tall because it’s big?”. It’s a *meaningless* exercise. The whole article and my response are reasons *why* we’d reject it.
    That’s also why I’d laugh anytime I see your “no evidence”. Basically, you’re saying “there is no evidence for God”, but without saying a) why there should be evidence; b) what you’d consider evidence; c) why you’d say there is no evidence. That’s leaving us with a magnificent “uh, it’s wrong”. Without a *reason* to assume there is. Now, you might say that you don’t have the burden of proof, but I’d reply that it’s exactly *what* is at stake. You can’t just say “heeh, it’s no evidence”. It would be like saying that “there can’t be Z or Y happening because of physical/natural laws” without defining or at least saying what ARE these laws.

    b) I’d agree it doesn’t even make sense. That’s how I see your response, how most theists who abide by natural law see the Euthyphro dilemna. But at least, we give you a *reason* to reject it.

    c) Similarly here, yes, it makes a problem. You’re saying that the polytheistic vision of a deity is the same as the vision of a monotheistic one. Olympian gods are not all powerful, they’re images of superbeings, like immortal heroes : they were born, they live, and some might be even killed when they are stripped of their immortality. On the other side, the Christian god, and any theistic vision of God, is seen not as “a” being, but as “Being” itself. What you’re doing here is, if I take an example, saying “Humanity is extended to all the continents.” and saying, “well, do you have any problems if I change it to ‘My friend Bob is extended to all the continents.’? Do I have to prove that my friend Bob exists for the rest of it to make any sense?”.

    Hope it clarifies the thing.

    Now, you might go around and telling me “well, it’s evidently nonsense, hence I have no burden of proof, you’re just dumb”, but I can just say the same. The goal of a discussion is not to yell the loudest “I have evidence”, “mythical figures”, or similar rhetorical sentences. I don’t mind arguing with you, but I’m not interested in empty verbiage.

    I’ll point why I consider your argument confused. At multiple points, you mention “countless acts of evil”, “worst cases for morality”. I’ll bite. I’ll give you one argument, independent of biblical morality, and say… “well, how so? If I look in the ancient greece, it was morally normal to own slaves. If you look at Sparta, nobody had troubles with killing newborn babies that were deemed useless. Sure, you’re arguing that you don’t see these things as moral, but… on what basis? What makes your morality or our morality better than the ancients? Look, what you claim to be genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, or homophobia, for them, was considered purely normal. What’s your basis for saying that it’s wrong? Because of morality? Let’s say that a dictator comes in tomorrow, and you end up on a minority of people with the same views as yours. Are you still moral?”

    Your argument is pushing for an objective moral principle. What we, theists, say, is that this principle is God. Arguing that God doesn’t exist is one thing, arguing that the biblical god is not the real God is another.

    You can say that it’s pointless to discuss about that. You can say that we’re deluding ourselves, or that we’re cowardly deluded people. Perhaps you’re saying that morality doesn’t exist. But I’d say that I’d rather be wrong, yet still do something while realizing that I might be wrong; than amending my view on a “I don’t believe” and refusing to take a stance. I’m alright with people not believing. Seeing someone coming here and saying “well, God orders moral evil” on one side, then using an argument looking like “my morality is better than the others” and “here is an objective moral principle” that correspond to a depiction of a god… I’d call that inconsistency. You can argue for suspension of belief, but reality doesn’t care of “maybe’s”. And seeing you coming here with miscomprehensions and skeptical charges doesn’t help the debate.

    Hope it will suffice.

    In truth,

    D.

  4. Dave Reply

    Patrick,

    Well, there, here you go.

    a) If you want to argue with the argument, you have to take into account the premises. For example, you start by saying “well, if there is no god”… and the rest of the argument does not follow. That’s good, because the people making such the argument are atheists, arguing the Euthyphro dilemma. The link I sent you should have been clear that, for me, or Aquinas, the Premise 1(Either an action is good because God commands it, or God commands an action because it’s already good.) is *false*.
    Now, I’m sure you can understand, as you kept arguing (?) on a catholic (?) website that you think there is no God (or, if you prefer a politically lazy and philosophically meaningless version, “I don’t believe there is a God”), how I’d feel reading you. “Darn, how can *he* be so dumb/endoctrinated/idiot/whatever not to see the flaws of his argument.” That’s how you come and argue anytime.
    The point here is, *we do not agree* with the *actual Euthyphro dilemna*. That is, it’s like, for us, asking “well, if something is big and tall, is it big because it’s tall or is it tall because it’s big?”. It’s a *meaningless* exercise. The whole article and my response are reasons *why* we’d reject it.
    That’s also why I’d laugh anytime I see your “no evidence”. Basically, you’re saying “there is no evidence for God”, but without saying a) why there should be evidence; b) what you’d consider evidence; c) why you’d say there is no evidence. That’s leaving us with a magnificent “uh, it’s wrong”. Without a *reason* to assume there is. Now, you might say that you don’t have the burden of proof, but I’d reply that it’s exactly *what* is at stake. You can’t just say “heeh, it’s no evidence”. It would be like saying that “there can’t be Z or Y happening because of physical/natural laws” without defining or at least saying what ARE these laws.

    b) I’d agree it doesn’t even make sense. That’s how I see your response, how most theists who abide by natural law see the Euthyphro dilemna. But at least, we give you a *reason* to reject it.

    c) Similarly here, yes, it makes a problem. You’re saying that the polytheistic vision of a deity is the same as the vision of a monotheistic one. Olympian gods are not all powerful, they’re images of superbeings, like immortal heroes : they were born, they live, and some might be even killed when they are stripped of their immortality. On the other side, the Christian god, and any theistic vision of God, is seen not as “a” being, but as “Being” itself. What you’re doing here is, if I take an example, saying “Humanity is extended to all the continents.” and saying, “well, do you have any problems if I change it to ‘My friend Bob is extended to all the continents.’? Do I have to prove that my friend Bob exists for the rest of it to make any sense?”.

    Hope it clarifies the thing.

    Now, you might go around and telling me “well, it’s evidently nonsense, hence I have no burden of proof, you’re just dumb”, but I can just say the same. The goal of a discussion is not to yell the loudest “I have evidence”, “mythical figures”, or similar rhetorical sentences. I don’t mind arguing with you, but I’m not interested in empty verbiage.

    I’ll point why I consider your argument confused. At multiple points, you mention “countless acts of evil”, “worst cases for morality”. I’ll bite. I’ll give you one argument, independent of biblical morality, and say… “well, how so? If I look in the ancient greece, it was morally normal to own slaves. If you look at Sparta, nobody had troubles with killing newborn babies that were deemed useless. Sure, you’re arguing that you don’t see these things as moral, but… on what basis? What makes your morality or our morality better than the ancients? Look, what you claim to be genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, or homophobia, for them, was considered purely normal. What’s your basis for saying that it’s wrong? Because of morality? Let’s say that a dictator comes in tomorrow, and you end up on a minority of people with the same views as yours. Are you still moral?”

    Your argument is pushing for an objective moral principle. What we, theists, say, is that this principle is God. Arguing that God doesn’t exist is one thing, arguing that the biblical god is not the real God is another.

    You can say that it’s pointless to discuss about that. You can say that we’re deluding ourselves, or that we’re cowardly deluded people. Perhaps you’re saying that morality doesn’t exist. But I’d say that I’d rather be wrong, yet still do something while realizing that I might be wrong; than amending my view on a “I don’t believe” and refusing to take a stance. I’m alright with people not believing. Seeing someone coming here and saying “well, God orders moral evil” on one side, then using an argument looking like “my morality is better than the others” and “here is an objective moral principle” that correspond to a depiction of a god… I’d call that inconsistency. You can argue for suspension of belief, but reality doesn’t care of “maybe’s”. And seeing you coming here with miscomprehensions and skeptical charges doesn’t help the debate.

    Hope it will suffice.

    In truth,

    D.

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