Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Absolute Failure of Absolute Moral Standards

The Absolute Failure of Absolute Moral Standards

Every so often, a believer will tell me that god exists because he is the source of the absolute moral standard. They will tell me that absolute moral standards exist because if I am to say that something is good or evil, that is a judgment. To make that judgment, I must be able to compare something to a perfect good or evil standard. If perfect good exists, god is its source and therefore, god exists. A facepalm always follows.

To start, I need no perfect example to know rape is evil. None is required to know feeding starving people is good. These seem self-evident to me, but for the sake of argument, I’ll find something to make a comparison. Is rape more evil than not raping? Is feeding the hungry more good than not? Hmm. I think I’m done comparing. But is rape the ultimate evil? Is torture more evil than rape? Is there a form of torture that could be considered to be more evil? Like say, hell? Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It seems perfect examples are not necessary for these judgments. How then, do we make moral judgments? How can we know we make the right choice?

It seems to me our moral judgments should keep us up at night. Was that the best thing to do? Could I have done it differently or better? Constant review and re-review is needed and we must commit ourselves to this massive undertaking.

So why do believers always bring the myth of absolute moral standards to the table? I think it is clear. First, religion is a tool for control, not morality. It is designed to force certain actions and inactions that promote the religion. If you think this will make you a better person, why wouldn’t you follow it? If you are guaranteed a code of ethics that has god’s seal of approval, why would you need to look any further? So what if innocent people die when you crash that airplane into a building? God says it is okay, so it is.

Not that I don’t think there are no moral standards. I just don’t think they are absolute in any way. Once people thought slavery was okay. It still carries god’s approval. But we know slavery is wrong. One day, the people who say gay marriage is an abomination to god will be trying to convince us they supported love the whole time. Won’t that be a great day?

Even if I were to accept the existence of absolute moral standards, I could not accept god as the source. God has but one punishment and one reward. Though I thought the movie sucked, Obi Wan said it best when he told Anikin, “Only a Sith thinks in terms of black and white.” Evil demands obedience, or death. Good allows for the morally gray. If any absolutes do exist, god would be the source of evil. If hell has multiple levels, it recognizes the morally gray, and therefore is good.

But it’s all bullshit. Absolute moral standards are as real as flying poop monsters. We have to own our morality, and make it work for us. God isn’t here, we are.

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