Answering a moral relativist
Published: 8 July 2017 (GMT+10)
Self-confessed apostate, Jordan A. from the U.S., wrote in to criticize CMI’s claim that God is necessary for morality.
Christians (and Creationists more than any) have a very long way to go in fixing your world view. If you weren't already absolutely convinced that your arguments are correct you might be able to see the circular nature of your arguments and the unbelievably far reaching assumptions undergirding them. Morality is not necessarily a product of the existence of god. There are communal instincts in most animals, mammals especially (which we are), which can be considered the lowest hanging fruit as to the origin of morality (evolutionarily speaking). If creationists weren't so ready to ignore easily verifiable facts in exchange for the bible (which by the way is subjective and culturally situated) their worldview would be immediately destroyed. Morality itself is subjective and culturally/historically situated and can be seen changing dramatically over time and in between generations. I was once a Christian myself and all it took was a few history classes and some idea of what other religious systems look like to understand that none of them are right. If any religion was truly RIGHT there would only be one religion. If Christianity was truly RIGHT then there would only be one Christianity, instead of thousands all insisting that their version is the correct interpretation. The key word here being INTERPRETATION. Humanity, this world, and this universe are far more complex and varied than your narrow vision would have you think. Christianity is first and foremost a culture, a power/political structure to gain control over people, and a business. I sincerely hope that some of you may open your eyes and come out from the rock that has been blocking your view. I used to say that people who don't believe in god just don't understand or aren't open minded. only the opposite is tru
CMI’s Keaton Halley responds:
Thanks for submitting a comment in response to: Can atheism possibly explain morality and reason?
Your submission makes so many assertions that I thought it would be useful to respond and publish as a separate article. Please see my comments interspersed.
Christians (and Creationists more than any) have a very long way to go in fixing your world view. If you weren't already absolutely convinced that your arguments are correct you might be able to see the circular nature of your arguments and the unbelievably far reaching assumptions undergirding them.
You didn’t tell us what these mistaken assumptions are, and you didn’t provide any evidence for these claims, so why should we accept them? See our answer to the circular reasoning charge.
Morality is not necessarily a product of the existence of god.
Then why didn’t you refute my arguments and explain how morality can be grounded without God? Instead, you deny that morality is objectively real when you call it “subjective and culturally/historically situated" below. So, it seems that you actually agree with me that, apart from God, morality reduces to mere preferences, even though you cloud the issue by equivocating on the term ‘morality’.
There are communal instincts in most animals, mammals especially (which we are), which can be considered the lowest hanging fruit as to the origin of morality (evolutionarily speaking).
What you mean is that instincts help to explain our behaving as if there were such a thing as morality—they would not produce actual morality (which doesn't exist on your view). Indeed, as my article pointed out, without objective morality we have no obligation to obey any of these instincts. And, we have competing instincts, like the impulse to be selfish and steal, but also the impulse to avoid society’s disapproval. So the standard by which we call one instinct ‘good’ and another ‘bad’ cannot come from the instincts themselves.
If creationists weren't so ready to ignore easily verifiable facts
Verifiable facts like the compelling evidence for a global Flood? Like the obvious presence of ingenious design in living things? Like soft tissue in dinosaur bones that defies evolutionary timescales? Like the human population growth rates that support the biblical timescale?
No, I suppose you meant verifiable facts that support evolution, like the alleged uselessness of the appendix, gill slits in human embryos, and a genome composed of 95% junk DNA, right? Oh, wait, those aren’t facts at all, just discredited evolutionary propaganda.
in exchange for the bible (which by the way is subjective and culturally situated) their worldview would be immediately destroyed.
Nobody denies that the books of the Bible were written in particular historical and cultural contexts, and a proper reading of Scripture takes this into account. But when you say the Bible is “subjective”, do you mean it’s true for some but not for others? Because that is plainly wrong. The Bible makes many historical claims which are objectively either true or false. Either Jesus fed 5,000 or he didn’t. Either Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt or he didn’t. It’s nonsense to say that the Exodus is true for me, but not for you.
Morality itself is subjective and culturally/historically situated and can be seen changing dramatically over time and in between generations.
Just because cultures change in their beliefs about morality over time does not prove that there are no moral facts. Rather, those cultures can be evaluated by an objective standard.
Societies in different times and places have varying views about physical facts as well (like whether the earth is the center of the solar system), but does this prove there is no objective truth of the matter?
Also, have you really thought through all the consequences of your view that there are no objective moral facts? If morality is subjective, then:
1. There are no immoral societies or behaviors. If each society or individual determines their own standard, then the Nazis were correct to argue in the Nuremberg trials that they did nothing truly wrong. So-called ‘justice’ here was merely the victors exerting power over the vanquished. Likewise, moral relativism means I could torture children just for kicks if I decided it was right for me and didn’t care about how society might react.
2. Moral judgments are reduced to personal preferences. If morality is subjective, every time we judge another person’s actions as immoral, we are doing nothing more than emoting—saying “I don’t like that.” But then my preference is not binding on anyone with a different preference. Telling someone else that they are wrong to murder, rape, steal from, abuse, or ridicule another person would be equivalent to telling them they are evil for preferring chocolate ice cream when I prefer vanilla.
3. Moral reformers are not heroic. Without a standard external to human beings, those who challenge the culture’s moral views cannot be doing something noble. On relativism, it doesn’t make sense to praise William Wilberforce for his opposition to the British slave trade or Dr Martin Luther King Jr. for championing the civil rights of African Americans, because even though they were doing right in their own eyes, from the vantage point of their contemporaries they were evil—and there is no truth of the matter, just different preferences.
4. Moral progress is impossible. Moral relativism makes moral improvement impossible, because improvement presupposes an objective standard. If society just makes it up as it goes, then we can’t better ourselves. On relativism, overcoming racism isn't ‘good’—it is an arbitrary and amoral change.
So, do you really live consistently with your professed belief in relativism? I hope not, because it’s scary to think how someone might behave when they are accountable to no law but their own.
I was once a Christian myself and all it took was a few history classes and some idea of what other religious systems look like to understand that none of them are right.
Is that all it took? That suggests to me that you didn’t have very deep roots in Christianity to begin with.
But how much have you wrestled with the massive problems that confront your moral relativism? It seems to me that the views you hold now deserve a little more critical scrutiny.
If any religion was truly RIGHT there would only be one religion. If Christianity was truly RIGHT then there would only be one Christianity, instead of thousands all insisting that their version is the correct interpretation.
Why think this? This would only be true if people never believe religious falsehoods, but obviously many do.
Again, there’s a parallel with beliefs about the physical realm. Sadly, in our ministry we have had to deal with people who claim the shape of the earth is flat, not spherical. Does it follow from the mere presence of disagreement that we’re both wrong?
The key word here being INTERPRETATION.
Are you suggesting that interpretation is subjective as well, so that any understanding of the text is just as good as another? In other words, if somebody reads Genesis 1 as a step-by-step guide to quilt-making, is this interpretation just as legitimate as the reading that maintains Genesis 1 is about God's six-day creation of the world?
That would be silly. There are objective, proper ways to determine the meaning of texts, so we don’t have to flip a coin to figure out which interpretations are right and which are wrong.
Humanity, this world, and this universe are far more complex and varied than your narrow vision would have you think.
How is our view any more narrow than yours? You’re claiming to have the truth and you’re scolding us for being wrong. Are you not equally narrow when you say that all religions are false?
Christianity is first and foremost a culture, a power/political structure to gain control over people, and a business.
Actually, it’s quite remarkable that, when the Gospel is embraced by societies around the world, it brings freedom and prosperity without eradicating the noble aspects of the cultures it touches. See What good is Christianity? and Atheists credit the Gospel.
If Christianity is all about power and control, though, then why are Christians so afflicted by persecution worldwide? According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80% of religious freedom violations today are committed against professing Christians. Also, why do Christians so often sacrifice their time and money for the sake of others? See Helping the needy—with Creation? We’re not perfect, but it’s a complete mischaracterization to say that genuine followers of Jesus care primarily about gaining control over other people. We are about loving God and loving others, because God first exhibited love toward us through the cross (1 John 4:10–11, 19).
I sincerely hope that some of you may open your eyes and come out from the rock that has been blocking your view. I used to say that people who don't believe in god just don't understand or aren't open minded. only the opposite is tru
Well, you’ve tossed out some pretty harsh denunciations of Christianity, but I hope you are still open minded enough to check out some of the evidence that supports it, and to further investigate the evidence that contradicts your current views. You could start with some of the links above or browse our website by topic.
I’m glad you’ve taken the time to interact with us, Jordan. But I fear that you have rejected Christianity for less-than-intellectually-credible reasons. For your sake, I sincerely hope you come to know and embrace the truth that sets you free (John 8:31–32).
Speaker / Information Officer for CMI–US
Thanks for the answers Keaton.
It would be an interesting exercise if there were opportunity for dialogue, like a Q&A session with this gentleman, who I would be certain would be bursting at the seams to provide rebuttals to the arguments provided from his current atheistic worldview. I too have enjoyed the oft-used lines of argument against the Bible such as the wrath of God in the OT and the ideal of moral relativism, but the notions of personal responsibility for sin and the inherent problem of a lack of absolute standards is beyond what an atheist would accept.
In the end, the difficulty of answering first cause and the inability to explain the wonder of the innumerable units of life such as the ATP synthase molecule create stumbling blocks that leave the atheist with "I don't know", which hardly provides a case for evangelism to atheism. The usual rebuttal of the God of the gaps is insufficiently satisfying with the more little miracles being discovered and studied in detail leaving us with more questions than we initially had.
At times like this I reflect on the comments of Sir Edward Clarke, former Justice of the High Court of England and King's Council (KC) - "As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling…I accept [the Gospel evidence for the resurrection] unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate."
This bloke is the one who should open his mind and ask the Holy Spirit to soften his hard heart. Just because he believes a bunch of fairy stories he heard in his "history" class he thinks he's right and God's wrong. This is a foolish and stupid way of thinking as when he meets his Maker he will find it too late to change his mind. We need to have a passion to reach out to the lost and the prodigals like this bloke. God is always waiting to welcome them back like Jesus tells us in the Prodigal Son. I don't like using metaphors as I believe ib\n the literal and inerrancy of God's Word but it seems like it may take Jordan A. to be doing the modern equivalent of feeding pods to the pigs before he realises he is the one in error.
Thanks Keaton for handling this persons rant succinctly with gentleness and respect. I would recommend Jordan A. to do a little more research than just a few history classes and possibly study some historical arguments for the historicity of Jesus Christ and common facts surrounding the Resurrection held by both theistic and conceded by secular academic historians(eg/Bart Ehrman). Jordan A, I'd encourage you to pick up a short book by Gary Habermas titled: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus just to get an idea of the strength of the argument for Christ's resurrection from a historical perspective using facts agreed upon by most leading secular academic historians of antiquity.
Hi Keaton, nice article. I do appreciate much of what CMI has going; often think if most of the staff could share w heart and passion the same as you Gary Bates and Rob Carter share the ministry would reach uncharted ground it has not been able to touch.
Keep the passion and press for the mark
Moral relativism is just an alibi for sin which atheists and skeptics use to bludgeon christians with when confronted with the gospel demand of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ so atheism and evolutionism are a sophisticated cloak to cling to their rotten and sinful life-style but they are ashamed to admit it.
Here's a quote from David Berlinski who obviously is not what I would call a Christian but nevertheless makes a lo of sense:
“Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close. Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close. Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough. Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”
― David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
Fantastic article. You handled it so very well. I need to have more patience when speaking with people who can be so harsh in their judgments. When someones base line argument is "I'm an Ape, I'm an Ape" , I find it kinda funny when they try and tease my belief in Noah's Ark and talking snakes. I mean, someone who thinks they are a talking Ape should not do that. But I must be more gentle , I don't tease mentally challenged people, and I should not be so hard on people for thinking they are an Ape.
While I agree with article - and most of the comments on it, I am not sure that S.H. in the United Kingdom is right in saying that the atheistic secular neo-liberals are the modern equivalent of the Pharisees. Since they normally say that "there is no Resurrection, neither angel nor spirit" (Acts 23:8), they are far more like the Sadducees. Like them, the secularists "know not the Scriptures neither the power of God" (Mark 12:24) The real equivalent of the Pharisees are those in the churches - of whatever denomination - who make their church's traditions equal to Scripture - or even more authoritative! See Matthew 15:6 "You nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition". Though some churches are notorious for this, probably none are completely innocent all the time. God bless your work. Seathrún
I'm no psycologist, but I really get the impression that Jordan was a bit too arrogant christian and hence couldn't persieve his need to find true arguments and basis for his faith. The faith had a sturdy appearance not so much in spite of having little root as because of having little root. If this was the case, then it's an extremely sad story here. But only God really sees the heart. Just makes me sad...
Well written arricle, though I'd like to add, that it's absurd to claim original christianity was a political/power system, when viewing it against all those horrible ways the apostles (and many saints of both catolic and orthodox greeds) died. Peter even asked to be crusified up side down lest he should have as honorable a death as his master (according to legend).
May God be once honoured even through your life, Jordan.
I find it very encouraging and informative that you respond to such negative comments with wisdom and obvious compassion. I truly love and admire the ministry CMI has and I hope and pray it will continue to shed the truth everywhere it is seen and heard.
God bless you.
First, the Judeo-Christian faith, is, history and maybe if you had studied its history more toughly you wouldn’t have been such an easy target!
The key clue in your letter tells all. You attended one of our Marxist socialistic Anti-god Universities where you were first bullied and then brainwashed into the atheist paradigm. When I attended military basic training in 1974, my drill Sergeants used the same tactics as those atheistic college professors to tear me down and then build me back up in the fashion they desired to prepare me for war. Let me guess, you were raised in the church, then attended university and then lost what little faith you had? This is a sad narrative with all our churches because the leadership doesn’t see the science issue as important as we creationists do and in many cases are theistic-evolutionists themselves. This produces a very weak faith in our kids which makes them prime targets for the atheist’s.
If you study the world with a rational open mind, you should soon see the evolutionary so called evidence doesn’t stack up and is in fact the real circuitous reasoning. In other words what we observe in the present world fits the Biblical narrative neatly and rationally. If we were evolved pond scum, we would be no more intelligent than the rest of the creation and morality would be non-existent because random chemical reactions in the brain cannot construct morality, (we’d all be babbling schizophrenic idiots)!
Jordan, realize attending church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than attending a concert makes you a violinist, it is a relationship! You need to lose the attitude, throw off the brainwashing and look at the creation with an open mind asking God to reveal the truth to you and if you’re sincere He will.
I’ll pray for you.
Excellent article. In a recent conversation with a devout Lutheran, I stated "what happens after physical death WILL happen regardless of what you believe" She shook her head a few times and walked away without further dialogue.
Glad you liked the article, but I'm not sure what you mean by your other comment. It's true that there will be a final judgment, for example, regardless of whether someone believes that. But our final destination depends on whether we put our trust in Jesus, so what we believe does affect what happens after physical death.
First John 2:18 says "They went out from us, but they were not of us; ... they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." As a true Christian, our ultimate standard of what is right and wrong, true and false, God-given and Satanic is the Word of God. Since Jordan has rejected the Bible as absolute and authoritative, it is obvious that He never really was a Christian. He is one of the people Jesus referred to in Matthew 7:21-23, where He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not ... in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Should we believe the words of a fool, or should we believe the Word of God? Unless Jordan repents, and truly becomes a Christian, and I pray that he does, he will have to answer to God for his deliberate unbelief.
The irony of attempting to call out Christians for effectively being narrow minded (evidently not so), while writing some of the most closed minded comments really is quite staggering. It seems that those who consider themselves educated have elevated themselves to a position that the Pharisees in the day of Jesus occupied. I actually believe this atheistic secularist neo liberalism is the modern day equivalent of the Pharisees. This is a world where the belief system mantras must dominate over everything, even over compassion, love and goodness. It actually stems from human pride - "I know better God", despite the Bible and history's evidence. To (hopefully!) illustrate the irony of the comments submitted... I once had a debate with another worship leader who told me that a planned service couldn't be led by the Holy Spirit. Instead, he argued, the service had to be unplanned and that this (alone) was the way to be led by the Holy Spirit. The irony that I pointed out was lost on him - he was simply exchanging one model for another model - but one that suited his preferences. His starting point was so tunnel-visioned and set that he couldn't see the irony of his own argument, nor the truth that could set him free. The same is true of the (presumably young) guy who wrote this feedback. His closing gambit is evidence that the only ones whose minds are closed and hearts are hardened are those who have decided God is not real. This is the saddest thing of all.
A patient, intelligent, and measured response to an atheist's nonsensical blather.
The fundamental problem with moral relativism is that you have to be a narcissist.
Suppose I, contrary to reality, am a moral relativist who believes that X, Y, and Z are wrong. Good. But morality also requires the ability to tell OTHER people that what they're doing is wrong, otherwise it is pointless. But if I am taking my subjective opinions and putting it on others, that is the very definition of narcissism.
Universities have a lot to answer for. They allow lecturers to promote all kinds of anti-Christian bias across various disciplines as they promote atheistic world views in an un-objective manner & have the sheer hide to call it education… behaviour in the bait & switch world of illusion.
In many respects Atheism is un naturally bending over backwards (like a human snake) to appear moralistic & the new religion of higher, faster, stronger, smarter, more compassionate, more tolerant, get on board & they do because they don’t know any better than the skewed ‘evidence’ they are served.
Atheism is an a priori position(absolutely correct & unwilling to change-bigoted you may say in this day & age) unwilling to accept the evidence for design & purpose that is all around, but thanks to consensus cannot be acknowledged at any cost in the culture wars.
Eugenics is communal as is abortion & killing. Chimpanzees war against each other & eat each other. Nature expresses good & evil but many people call evil, good & good, evil (even in a Theocracy. Isaiah 5:20) because they want their power & glory too.Corruption is everywhere & the Bible makes that plain.
Without truth everything becomes subjective & virtually meaningless meaning-ism or Post Modern Intellectualism. Subjectivity says: If it feels good do it, don't worry about truth. Scripture says don't be taken for a fool, there is much more at stake than that.