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Two philosophers in a pub: the moral argument

April 10, 2010

It has taken me a while to return to this discussion. In my last post on this debate I found difficulty with the Christian’s probabilistic arguments for fine tuning. This time I wanted to express some difficulty with the atheist’s arguments about ethics.

The atheist basically claimed he was an atheist because of the ‘problem of evil’. This is a significant obstacle for the Christian to overcome, however difficulties arise in the argument when we try to work out exactly what ‘evil’ is. What constitutes evil and how do we recognise it?

The atheist ultimately concluded (sensibly) that without a ‘God’ all evil is ultimately subjective (there is not objective morality – indeed there can’t be – because there is no supreme being or force dictating what is right and wrong) and we all know inside us what is right and what we should do. Perhaps this should be called the ‘decent bloke’ rationale i.e. what is right is what the ‘decent bloke’ would claim is right is right – and since we’re all decent blokes we can agree on what is right and wrong.

However the difficulty comes when other ‘decent blokes’ have massively alternate views on what is right and wrong. I raised the problem with Auschwitz. In Auschwitz the German ‘decent blokes’ all thought that killing Jews was the right thing to do, indeed not to kill them would be a moral failure. Yet we in the modern world disagree. So given this disagreement how do we determine what is right or not?

The atheist in the end has no rational basis for condemning the atrocities of Auschwitz. How can they? If there is no objective morality there can be no basis to condemn Auschwitz – indeed there is no rational basis of condemning any immorality (because in this worldview all I have to do is find enough ‘decent blokes’ to agree with me it is right). I find this a deeply disturbing conclusion from ‘rational’ atheism.

In the end will this end up with a morality agreed upon by the powerful?


From → Philosophy

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