Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Donald Clegg Article in the Spokesman

A while ago Donald Clegg posted an article in the Spokesman-Review titled “Atheist can hold high standard of morality without faith”. As the title suggests his argument is that atheists can be moral without faith.

There were two responses posted to Mr. Clegg’s article in the Spokesman. You can read them here and here. I may be oversimplifying their responses, but they both boil down to the same point: that we possess moral standards is proof of God. One of the articles was certainly referring to the Biblical God and we can probably assume the same is true of the other.

If God imbued us with morals you would think He would have given us all the same morals. But if you look around the world throughout history that obviously isn’t the case. The fact is that we don’t all share the same morals. Will anyone really say that pacifist Quakers and British imperialists share the same morals? If that’s the case then one of those groups is going against their moral inclinations. While we all have our moral “slip-ups” I personally can’t imagine violating my morals day in and day out.

If God dictated our morals to us wouldn’t that violate free will? I know that in the Bible He, supposedly, explains what is moral and what is not and we are given the choice of whether or not to follow it. But it seems that if He implanted a conscience in our head that forces us to want to live by His morals that would take at least some of the choice away.

To the question of where do morals and the conscience come from I think we can look to Evolutionary Psychology (EP). If evolution via natural selection shaped our bodies then maybe it also shaped our minds. For more info about EP you can check out the Evolutionary Psychology Journal.

1 comment:

  1. First, positing the existence of God, it is very dangerous to try to presume what he would or would not do regarding the amount of hard-wiring that human beings share.

    Second, if one looks at various ethical systems globally, there is a remarkable consonants of moral principles across cultures. A lot of variation too, but on fundamental principles, a good deal of overlap and replication. There does indeed seem to be a fixed human nature. And this isn't just a point made by believers. EO Wilson has discussed this at length, for example.

    Third, the connection between religious belief and moral values isn't one that is made solely by believers. Legal scholar Arthur Allen Leff, in a series of articles, demonstrated quite persuasively that absent a God or God-type substitute (as one finds in Buddhism, Marxism, etc.), morality is literally impossible. And Laff was no believer -- he was a strong agnostic/weak atheist.