Wednesday 25 May 2011

More on the myth of objective morality

Earlier today I drafted a comment to post in a discussion at the Unbelievable? Group forum. But this evening when I went there to post it, the discussion had disappeared. I started a new thread and posted it anyway, but I'm including it here as well. The original discussion was started by Chris Baird, about whether "common sense" is a suitable basis for morality. The ensuing comments, including some especially insightful ones from James Croft, put me in mind of my recent post here about "objective morality". This is what I posted in the new thread:
What happened to Chris Baird's discussion about the "Is the Bible unbelievable?" show last Saturday? It seems to have disappeared. I was about to stick my oar in, and found the thread had vanished, which is a shame because the exchange between Chris and James Croft was getting interesting. Anyway, this is what I was going to post, prompted by Justin's brief but insistent quizzing of Leslie Scrace:

I agree with James. The theistic claim to transcendental moral knowledge is bogus. Its basis is in scripture, which is no more than "it's written in this book, therefore it must be true." The suggestion that this is some kind of superior "foundation" for morality doesn't hold up to inspection.

For instance, why this book and not some other? Is it a matter of personal preference that a Christian takes his or her morality from the Bible? If a Christian claims to have had a personal revelation that Christian moral law is true, is that anything more than a subjective feeling?

Christians are forever asking (as Justin did on last Saturday's show) for the atheistic "foundation" for morality, when their own "foundation" is nothing of the kind.

Sticking resolutely to an arbitrary list of rules regardless of the consequences is morally irresponsible. It's an abnegation of one's duty to do right by one's fellows. And before any theists ask me again why I have any reason to think that such an attitude — or indeed duty — is moral, I will simply say this: basing my actions on what appears to promote progress towards mutual wellbeing produces results that are on the whole beneficial to the human race. What more do I need?

There is an odd notion in theistic circles that morality must by definition be transcendent. The sooner we get rid of this erroneous idea the better for humankind. (More on my blog.)
We'll have to wait and see if the new thread gets as interesting as the one that vanished.