Immoral Questions

There’s a standard issue canard that many religious people bring up concerning the basis of value, ethical value in particularly, but I’ve even seen it extended to aesthetic value and even value in logic. When stated as a question, as it often is, this canard can take a variety of forms. General forms include: How can there be value without religion? Without god? Without some divinely inspired rulebook? A more direct manifestation might go like this. Since they lack moral guidance, how can we risk having an unbeliever in a position of leadership or even in town? A friend of mine once asked me, “Since you don’t believe in God, why do you even care about right and wrong?”
When someone asks these kinds of questions, I am temped to ask in return, “What on earth would you like to do that religious constraints are keeping you from doing?” Would you commit wholesale adultery? Would you be a mass murderer? Would you steal everything in sight? Would you covet your neighbor’s wife or property more than you already do? Would you give false testimony as a matter of course? Should mothers lockup their sons and daughters when you are around? Should the livestock be nervous when you visit a farm?
I know these are rhetorical questions and have serious place in a discussions of ethics or value in general. But that doesn’t keep me from wondering . . . and worrying.

3 thoughts on “Immoral Questions”

  1. One more Question…
    Does a person’s unbelief (In God, or in a Higher Power of some kind) deny or even alter the existence or influence of a God or Higher Power on that person? Does one’s denial or ignorance of any objective truth make it any less of a truth?

  2. Ralph,
    You asked two questions that I take to be only somewhat related. And on my reading, that relationship results mostly from a conflation within of your first question. Your second question is easier and less complex, so I will answer it without equivocation. No, one’s mere opinion regarding any objective truth (or falsehood) is completely irrelevant.
    As I said, your first question seems to conflate two separate ideas that I parse as follows: The first is “Does a person’s unbelief (In God, or in a Higher Power of some kind) deny or even alter the existence . . . of a God or Higher Power”? Here the answer is exactly the same as my answer to your second question. Neither belief nor lack of belief on the part of an individual or any number of individuals has anything to do with the fact of the matter regarding the existence of “a God or Higher Power” or anything else that may or may not be external to that person or those persons. There is either a god and/or more than one god or there isn’t. No one’s mere opinion changes that.
    I parse the second part of your first question as “Does a person’s unbelief (In God, or in a Higher Power of some kind) deny or even alter the influence of a God or Higher Power on that person?” Theologically and philosophically, this is a very hard question. It’s been a long time since I studied it and even then I never thought about it all that much. So I can only sketch out an approach. First, we’d need to define very carefully what we mean by “influence.” Then I think we’d need to get into a very complex discussion of freewill that I’m far from properly prepared to have. For one thing, the secondary literature is immense and frankly contradictory and the direct evidence of any kind of free will is itself at best ambiguous (I think I could have written something else but I’m not sure). However, please notice that your question goes complete away if it is the fact of the matter that there is no god or no gods. The question of freewill remains with or with out a god or gods.
    Addressing the fact of the matter of there being a god or gods (a higher power) is a question of metaphysics (if the property of existence is a metaphysical question) and epistemology that I think is well beyond the scope of my post. That doesn’t mean I am unwilling to take it up. In fact, I have taken it here up before, more than once. But, as I see it both metaphysics and epistemology are a very hard subjects requiring a discussion of nearly the full range of philosophy including on my understanding a good deal of math, particularly statistics and probability. If you want to go there I guess I’m willing.

  3. A non-negotiable axiom in Logic is that there’s an opposition between existence and non-existence, and between truth and falsehood. All questions within the rational sphere must have a rational answer and must then be understandable by a consistent Logic.
    However, God is by nature (and even by the testimony of his own followers) completely immeasurable. He can only lie outside our rational sphere of truth and falsehood that he purportedly created. He lies then in a greater metalogical sphere, beyond the boundaries of Logic, where the difference between truth and falsehood may no longer be distinguished.
    So the statement “Either a Creator/God/gods/etc. exists or doesn’t” is an absurd, unprovable, metalogical one that only has an equally absurd, undefined answer. Questions of God and of Existence are doomed to never have a coherent answer. To expect one is a kind of madness.

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