"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Friday, June 25, 2004

Fundamentalist Morality
Surfing around on this question, I came across this question & answer:

[Q] The Old Testament God is cruel and arbitrary in his orders to the Israelites to savagely murder and carry out ethnic cleansing on the original inhabitants of Canaan. Of course, this is also the God who sends people to hell for eternity for only exercising the free will he gave them!

A: First, even if this kind of argument were valid, the atheist could only prove God was mean, not that he did not exist. Second, the atheist who charges God with immorality must have some absolute, universal, and invariant system of morality by which he can judge God. Christians get their system of justice and morality from God's revelation, but from where does the atheist's sense of morality come? From his own subjective opinion? Then he has no right to criticize anyone else's system. From society? Then in Hitler's society ethnic cleansing is "good." From the innate survival mechanisms of nature? Then whatever humans (part of nature) do must be "good" because their actions are products of their natures and thus "good." From some moral agent beyond this material universe who has the authority to impose morality on this material universe and its inhabitants? And so we come back to the idea of a transcendent moral God, exactly what the Christian affirms to exist. Now, the Christian deals with this problem further by arguing that the God who created, gives life to, and sustains people has the proprietary "right" to extinguish people according to his own will, even if it appears to us to be "immoral."

Atheism vs. Christianity, A Response to Unanswered Questions
Bob and Gretchen Passantino, 1993, answers.org
Some thoughts:
  • They do not say why the argument is not "valid". Perhaps they think it is an appeal to outrage
  • The issue is not just that God is "mean" - it is that He is portrayed to be a genocidal hypocrite
  • The answer begs the question on the origin of morality (i.e. it assumes the origin of morality is settled, when it fact that is the very point at issue)
  • Most Born Again Christians in the USA do not believe in "moral absolutes"
  • There is no doubt that "morality" does exist - but no agreement on whether God exists
  • The comparison with Hitler (Godwin, anyone?) is ridiculous - and it is Christians here who are attempting to justify Genocide
  • The answer ignores the point that morality is something we can seek to view objectively, even if we accept that total "objectivity" is unattainable
  • The mere fact that genocide and hypocrisy are considered to be immoral in human behaviour whether or not they are immoral for God shows that a standard of morality exists irrespective of the question of God's existence
  • The final justification given is startling. God has the "right" to wipe out people at will, 'even if it appears to us to be "immoral."'
Fundamentalist "absolute morality" teaches that whatever God does is right by definition. That may be absolute - but it cannot be moral.

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