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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

God, Atheism and the Problem of Evil - Part V

Having dealt with the notion that there is a "necessary" equivalence between the experience of pain and the experience of evil, and having dispensed with it, we are left with the understanding that evil exists in only one sphere of our lives, in the dimension of morality.

Morality is a cognitive dimension, requiring free agents and choice, knowledge and understanding regarding the choices they are considering and make.

The process by which the discernment of morality is developed, and moral values are promulgated varies greatly from culture to culture. While the interpretation of moral values within a given culture, varies greatly from individual to individual.

People commonly confuse their personal, individual, cultural values (mores), for universal moral norms. We must be mindful of this at all times.

Let me assert my bias from the outset: the atheistic argument against the existence of God, from the existence of moral evil is weak. The weakness of this argument lies in the fact that it is bound by secular and utilitarian principles.

Theories of utility and the distribution of happiness, which are at the root of this argument have more to do with economics than with the interpersonal dynamics of human activity, which makes up the moral dimension of our lives.

Demonstrating that one cultural definition of God does not meet the standard of another culture’s definition of a moral being, does not prove that God does not exist, it merely demonstrates a conflict in the presupposition of who and what God is, in relation to other presuppositions about the nature of good and evil.

Let us also establish this bar: atheism must do more than challenge our particular notion of God, it must also establish a coherent understanding of the nature of reality in which there is no God.

Let us begins with the assumption that there is no God.

I assert: if God does not exist, then no absolute moral standard exists.

If there is no law giver, there is no law.

If no absolute moral standard exists, then all moral values are determined by individuals (individual people, individual communities, individual cultures), and all such moral standards are relative.

If the atheist intends to posit an absolute moral standard that exists independent of God, the atheist must explain how it holds together, what its force of governance is, how did it come to hold sway over the universe, what brought it about, and what its dependent conditions are.

The atheist must explain how individuals are able to come to know the law, and how they are compelled to follow it, finally they must define what classes of beings are governed by the law, and what classes of beings are not.

As it is the case that no such moral theory has ever been elucidated, we may conclude that it does such a theory does not exist.

In a universe without God, adherence to moral standards are a matter of choice, and there is no good or evil apart from the relative evaluations of individuals.

Whether we are speaking about morality from a theistic perspective or an atheistic perspective, what defines moral activity is this:

A free agent makes a choice to perform a specific action, the action must involve at least one other person, either directly or indirectly. There must be cognizance that there is a right and wrong dimension to the intended action.

The existence of morality is dependent upon the existence of free agents. If there is no freedom, there is no moral agency.

An absolute moral standard is dependent on the existence of an absolute, unvarying, perfect and universal agent; God. If there is no God, there is no moral law.

Let me reiterate, in a universe that does not posit the existence of God people would rely on their personal experience, on their individual cultural moral positions as the framework for their moral awareness.

It is impossible for human beings to determine whose cultural values are preeminent. Both individual people, and social organism have an inherent preference for their own moral outlook.

As such, all evaluations of morality in a system without an absolute standard are relative to the experience and biases of individuals.

If God does not exist, moral evil does not exist, neither does the good.

The argument that I am making asserts a claim about evil that appears to be unorthodox. It contradicts a long-standing set of assumptions in Western thought.

My argument suggests that the existence of moral evil, our ability to discern moral evil counts toward the existence of God, not against it.

The existence of evil, evidenced by our ability to discern it, may challenge our notion of who god is and how we relate to the divine, but it proves rather than disproves the existence of an absolute, universal standard, which could not exist without a sovereign standard bearer; God.

The fact that we are inclined to think of actions in terms of good and evil is evidence of the divine-will asserting its influence on us, calling us to responsible behavior, to morally good activity, and benevolent decision making.

In a universe without God there is no true evil, there is only a universe that does not care about us, a universe that is blind to our existence, and does not bear witness to our pain.

Such a universe would only contain people who lead their lives according to individual preferences, according to some distributive theory of economics, or some standard of utility.

It would be a relativistic universe where goodness is a matter of public opinion, and privation is going against the fashion of the times.