Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Trouble with God's Laws

I have some major objections to the constant appeals to god that I encounter.

God is the only source of morality/value?
I am frequently told that without god, there is no objective morality or purpose in life.  I myself found that upon seriously doubting god's existence, I was floating without a compass, morally.  What is there, without god's "eternal law" or something equivalent, besides arbitrary values with no true rational basis?

However, upon further thought, I realize that I could no longer be satisfied even if I were convinced of god's existence once again.  I list a few possibilities:

1) God creates the law and all values through his divine will.  In this case, what he tells us to do is no less arbitrary than if we were to select our values on intuition, or at random.  If there is no possible rational justification for any system of ethics, what does god have to make his system any better?

2) God conveys and reinforces already existent eternal laws defining what is of value.  So god is the divine police constable, essentially, serving some higher master.  But what of this master?  A list of eternal laws that god subjects himself to is just god's god, is it not?  Why mess around with god in the first place, if he is a middle man?  And returning to the previous point, what justifies this greater force of law as anything other than arbitrary?

3) God is not concerned with morals so much as accomplishing some personal goals through our actions.  In this case, we are no better than slaves or an ant farm to god, to be used and abused as he sees fit.  He certainly lies when he expresses concern for our happiness or salvation if this is the case, just to get us to do what we want.
3a) "God can't lie?" you say?  Who told you?  God?  Let's review a few possibilities:
       -God must lie.  Then god will tell you "I cannot lie."
       -God can lie.  There is nothing stopping god from telling you either "I can" or "I cannot."
       -God cannot lie.  Then god will tell you "I cannot lie."
Is it not disturbing that "I cannot lie" is a possible response for any scenario, and a necessary one for most?  In addition, if god is incapable of lying, what of lies of omission?  If I shout to the sky "Hey, god, remain silent if you approve of my theft of this Ferrari," why is he not constrained to explicitly speak his will?  Anyone experienced with lies knows that the very best lies involve no explicitly untrue statements, but calculated omissions and strategic nonverbal cues.  Finally, if god cannot lie and we can, in what way exactly is he superior to us?  I thought omnipotence was arguably a fairly important trait of god's...

4) God is concerned only with our good and happiness, and tries to direct us toward such.  This is a subtler argument that nevertheless runs into my points discussed in possibilities 1 and 2.  Why does god value our happiness?  Is it an arbitrary whim, or some higher law?  And if some higher law, again I ask how this can possibly set our worries to rest, as we wonder the exact same things about this "meta-god."  Who is god to create us and give us the possibility of unhappiness, or a world in which unhappiness is possible?  And if anyone thinks "free will," just wait until my next post, when I will explain my objections to that questionable concept.

So, even if there really is a god who cares in the least about our actions, why do we care about this?  Fear of punishment?  Wow, real nice... We're rats subject to electric shocks.  My reaction if this is the case is that true courage would be to stand up to god's tyranny and assert my own individuality!  I'm no one's slave, and god can't make me be anything through any degree of carrot-and-stick, and if he wants his way, he'll have to persuade me like a reasonable person of the merits of his views.  If god is some cosmic terrorist, sending hurricanes, lightning, disease, and wrath upon those who don't do what he wants, he could at least be a little clearer on what his demands are, to the point where there wasn't so much confusion over morality in the world, even among his self-proclaimed "followers."

So, to anyone who would tell me that belief in god is the only way to have a firm moral grounding, I challenge you to explain to me precisely how god solves anything on the ethical front.

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