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Open Discussion: No God, No Morality? [updated]

Roy Moore: 'We Have No Morality Without an Acknowledgment of God'

The acknowledgement of God is basic to our society, to our law, and to our morality. Christianity is in a prime position to wake them up. I can't do it alone, and Christians need to be awakened to what's going on in our country. If we continue to let this happen, what will happen is a complete departure from our constitutional form of government. The basis of our morality is being destroyed. We have no morality without an acknowledgment of God.

To say I strongly disagree is a vast understatement.

Discuss, please. I'll have my say later.

Update: I'll start with this comment:

Without some sense of absolute right and wrong we end up in the land of moral relativism. The only valid source for an absolute morality is some "higher power".

Who is judging the validity of this source? There are some "higher powers" that promote death to non believers. So if someone says they get their sense of absolute right or wrong from that higher power, who are you to argue with it? That's their morality, as much as "turn the other cheek" may be yours. With more than one God hanging around, there is more than one absolute morality. Who's to say that yours is right and theirs is wrong? Using a higher power as the grounds for determining what's moral or not is sometimes a cop out, sometimes an excuse.

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» A Small Victory, A Larger Loss from Confederate Yankee
Michele can disagree with Judge Moore all she wants on a personal level, but it won't make her any less wrong on the larger cultural level. [Read More]

» DOES AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNANCE REQUIRE CHRISTIANITY? from Heretical Ideas
[This is the first part of a two part discussion. Part two will be continued tomorrow.] Michele over at A Small Victory has opened up a discussion over the role of God and morality based on this statement by Judge Roy Moore.All I can say is it's o... [Read More]

» DOES THE EXISTENCE OF MORALITY REQUIRE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD? from Heretical Ideas
[This is part two of a two part discussion. Click here to read part one.] The third avenue of discussion is the part that Michele is most interested in--is the existence of morality predicated on the existence of a deity (or deities)? This is a qu... [Read More]

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Try one of these specials with your breakfast. House Specials aTypicalJoe and I agree: mmmmmm, doughnuts. Barking Moonbat Early Warning System fires a shot across the bow. Hog On Ice has t-shirts. a small victory and Confederate Yankee are at [Read More]

» God and Morality from respublica
Michelle over at A Small Victory has two posts running in which she and her commenters are debating whether or not an atheist can know right and wrong. [Read More]

» God, Morality and The Ten Commandments from Secure Liberty
Michele at ASV has an interesting discussion going on regarding the question of whether one can live a truly moral life without believing in God. The first post is here and the second one is here. Roy Moore, former chief justice of the Alabama Suprem... [Read More]

Comments

HI - DEAN BERRY -- REAL AMERICAN HERE. JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT I LOVE GEORGE BUSH. HE IS MY HERO.

OK, Crackhead Dean's all-caps aside...

Morality can certainly be informed by religious belief. For example, all that horrid Leviticus stuff about killing homosexuals and smart-mouthed children.

Of course, morality can also be informed by evolutionary influences (reference Matt Ridley's book on the topic) and by reasoning (a general antithesis of religious belief - there, that should piss someone off).

What we can take away from Moore's comments is that if he lacked his belief in God, he would be a murdering, raping, pillaging sadist who kicks puppies. For people who really think that way, perhaps we should be glad that religion exists to keep them in line.

Of course, too, if Mr. Moore's God were to tell him to kick puppies or to refuse to allow juries to decide the law or ... he'd be entirely correct in doing so, in his eyes.

If he wants to acknowledge God, fine. He can't expect to be able to require others to. Well, I suppose he can. He shouldn't be allowed to implement his expectations.

Not being a Christian myself, I would guess that Roy Moore is to believing Christians as Michael Moore is to decent, reasonable liberals. In other words, just because this nutjob says it, doesn't mean he speaks for the majority. Unfortunately, they both seem to speak for a very vocal minority.

Hello, God.

There I acknowledged him.

Now can we get back to the real world and figure out was is best to do with the money we give the government other than trying to regulate what I read or see on TV?

I wish religious nutjobs would stop trying to divide the country and rule by theology. These people have no more claim to moral high ground than atheists, devil worshippers and the Taliban.

I think the mistsake here is a subtle one. Of course there is morality without an acknowledgement of G-d, but it is a morality that can easily lose its way.Without some sense of absolute right and wrong we end up in the land of moral relativism. The only valid source for an absolute morality is some "higher power". So while G-d is not a prerequisite to morality, HE/SHE is a prerequisite to a morality that cannot be altered by the capricous whims of the majority.

The only valid source for an absolute morality is some "higher power".

Next time you happen to see an absolute morality wandering around, let me know. I've yet to see one.

What we end up with is "Good is whatever God says it is." If God changes his mind, then what is good changes (reference OT vs NT); and since God does a pretty crap ass job of communicating clearly to mankind, I'd say any talk of absolute morality is about as nonsensical as talk about God.

Christians can't agree on what their god wants. Nor Muslims. Nor Jews. It's almost as if the capricious whims of the majority within each group are at play constantly.

In a classic 1945 compendium, the American anthropologist George P. Murdock listed the universals of culture, which he defined as the social behaviors and institutions recorded in the Human Relations Area file for every one of the hundreds of societies studied to that time. There are sixty-seven universals in the list: age-grading, athletic sports, bodily adornment, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labor, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labor, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethno-botany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire making, folklore, food taboos, funeral rites, games, gestures, gift giving, government, greetings, hair styles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names, population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation of supernatural beings, puberty customs, religious ritual, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool making, trade, visiting, weaving, and weather control.

...strange -- while I see things like "ethics" and "penal sanctions", I don't see "acknowledgement of God" in that list ["religious ritual" does, after all, include paganism, Taoism, Buddhism and other belief systems not necessarily tied to any monotheistic background...]

Faith can be both a boon to morality and a hinderance. On the one hand, being faithful can lead to a stronger moral fiber, but on the other, following that faith blindly can allow for monstrous acts to be committed.

As with most things, moderation is the key.

Now all I can think is how fun it would be to dig up Ayn Rand's corpse to beat Moore over the head with.

Does this mean evil wouldn't exist with Satan?

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Moore seems to have forgotten that many cultures have managed to develop high moral standards without the concept of a Christian God.

First I think it's pretty arrogant to believe that any one religion holds the only key to any type of world or personal salvation. That in itself sends that quote careening off into the nether regions. All credibility is lost.

That being said a religion is an attempt by man to explain the unexplainable. An all knowing and powerfull being(s) is the perfect explaination to that which has to be so but we can't prove it. Now take a god being, all powerfull, who says do this or else and you have a pretty inflexible set of rules to live by. Morality is that set of rules with live by and hope we interact with others. So he is correct in that something made by man - ie government isn't really as binding as rules made by a being that can whip up a flood or turn you to salt. He just chooses the christian set of rules, the problem is which sect do we use?

That leads to another set of questions - who decides what is moral and not? Ancient rome? The mayans? Tibetien monks? All have thier god set of rules and sworn to death that thier morals are only morals.

Ain't it a bitch when religions teach exclusion over inclusion? Lets start with that set of moral guidelines and work from there.

(note: didn't read a lick of the stuff preceeding me here... and Yaz is a baby killer.)

Drop this argument. You wake up in the morning, right? Decided to kill the guy in the cave next store? Or decide to walk along the road. That's it. Violations get their ass shot.

Somebody hit Skillzy. I'm, like, leaning to the tard-side bored.
(You're gonna hit me for that one, ain't ya?)

Now all I can think is how fun it would be to dig up Ayn Rand's corpse to beat Moore over the head with.

You'd have too many Rand fans screaming bloody murder. Not because you exhumed her corpse, but because you're being too altruistic.

"Without some sense of absolute right and wrong we end up in the land of moral relativism."

But, despite the ugly connotations of the term 'moral relativism', morality is relative. This is how God fearing good Christians can favor capital punishment while claiming abortion is criminal. Both are killing, but one is okey-dokey and the other is murder -- if that isn't moral relativism, I don't know what is.

Whoops, I left out the converse. Many also believe that abortion is a good thing and capital punishment is evil.

See, that's the relative part and both sides have equally sound justifications for their beliefs.

OK, lotta fallacies already on this thread.

1. Moore is a nutjob. QED. But the question here is about the proposition that a belief in God is necessary to morality, and Roy Moore has nothing to do with whether that's correct.

2. The fact that human beings have difficulty discerning ultimate moral truths, and disagree about religious truths, does not prove that such truths do not exist.

3. The fact that ultimate and unchanging moral principles may counsel different courses of action in different circumstances does not mean that the quest for the core principles is futile. Moral principles can be unchanging, and yet lead us to different answers in different cases without collapsing into incoherent relativism.

4. Actually, there's two questions here. One is whether, as a factual, descriptive matter, people can act morally without believing in God. At least in individual cases, the answer, if it weren't obvious, is "yes." The separate question - when we move from "is" to "ought" is whether it makes any sense to follow moral prescriptions above and beyond simple self-interest if you don't believe in God. I think it doesn't, and if you listen to arguments for morality without God, they always wind up being circular: "we should be moral because we value others," etc. But why? Why is a person more valuable than a rock? Because we're socially conditioned to think so? Because being nice to people gives us pleasure or serves our purposes? Just because we can? Those are just descriptive arguments - all "is" and no "ought." But if you go back to first principles, the whole enterprise of moral reasoning, the ability to value human life or happiness above other things, depends on something larger than ourselves imposing that value.

In our society morality is relative but that doesn't mean it's a good thing that it's relative. If there was some way to have an absolute framework for right right and wrong society would benefit. while you are right that there are multiple absolute moralities around , some of them being repugnant to us, I believe the closest thing we have to a "righteous" absolute morality is the "Judaeo-christian" framework. To paraphrase "it's the worst of all moral frameworks, except for every other kind of moral framework". without absolutes you go down the pat\h of killing non believers or for that matter those of the " inferior races" even more easily than you do without following a religous path.

hmm. well i certainly don't think you have to be religous or even spirtual to be a moral person. i can acknowledge that without the creation of ancient religion we may not have alot of the morals that we hold dear today. whether their higher power came to them through divine inspiration with these guidelines or their god or gods were created to satisfy a basic human need isn't significant to me. i believe that moral relativity can be dangerous and there are some basic universal truths. that's just my theory, though. and my higher power is one that who through slf-examination, synchronicity, and prayer can be our compass to these universal truths. in a world of moral relativism nothing can be considered universally wrong and drags our collective conciousness into a very dark place.

in regards to the previous comment about abortion. while i do think it should be legal, i still believe that it is wrong. it's the lesser of two evils but that doesn't make it right. it's up to each individual to come to terms with whether they will choose to do the right or the wrong thing. nobody can do the right thing all the time. it might seem right for them but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is legalized murder which i advocate. you won't ever here this pro-abortion advocate using cowardly euphemisms like pro-choice or pro-life. (i have taken alot of heat over this view)

Who is judging the validity of this source? There are some "higher powers" that promote death to non believers.

There are some religions that do (and others that used to). There were also, at one time, scientists who thought the earth was flat. That doesn't mean the quest for scientific truth about the roundness of the earth is futile. Religion is a human search for eternal truth. It shouldn't be surprising that some people find the wrong answers.

So if someone says they get their sense of absolute right or wrong from that higher power, who are you to argue with it?

Well, you either argue within somebody's faith tradition, or you try to convince them that their faith is wrong. Of course, our laws are in some sense lowest-common-denominator compromises among moral conclusions derived from different faith traditions.

With more than one God hanging around, there is more than one absolute morality.

Again, when the flat-earth and round-earth people disagreed, there wasn't more than one planet. There were just people who were right and people who were wrong. Of course, in science, unlike religion, it's easier to find earthly evidence to persuade people. But that doesn't change the nature of the search for truth.

Using a higher power as the grounds for determining what's moral or not is sometimes a cop out, sometimes an excuse.

True. And using the difficulty of finding eternal truth as a reason for giving up the exercise is also sometimes a cop out, and sometimes an excuse. But the fact that fallible humans sometimes use bad arguments doesn't really get us anywhere.

Morals, ethics, values; which are good and which are bad... This subject can get even the most intelligent among us wrapped in circles. Did I say: "even"? Actually, I believe the most unintelligent people have no problem with this dilemma whether on the right or the left.

Where we can reach a relative consensus (some measure of a supermajority), we create laws. As Christians, shouldn't we be trying to convince people into our line of thinking as it relates to moral and immoral behavior rather than trying to pass laws? The free market can do wonders to marginalize "immoral" behavior (without the need for a call of boycott).

Society has to be formed on some agreement of principles and values - if we didn't agree on right and wrong at some level, there could be no rules to our society at all.

We agree (for whatever reason) that (in general) to hurt others is wrong. Whether this stems from an enlightened self-interest (if I don't hurt you, you won't hurt me, therefore I'll have an easier time of it) or a belief in a higher power is immaterial. Whatever our motivations for feeling the way we do, we are all allowed to feel however we want; we agree as part of a society to govern our actions, not our thoughts.

Where Mr. Moore goes wrong, I think, is in trying to project his personal thought process onto everyone in society. He is welcome to think whatever he likes, and anyone else is welcome to think him misguided.

The acknowledgement of God is basic to our society, to our law, and to our morality.

Moore's statement is true in a historical sense. True in a cultural sense. True in a legal sense as far as the evolution of where our laws came from. True in a moral sense.

I'm not sure Christianity can or should be singled out as the only "right" religion as Moore seems to imply here, but our morality, laws and societal norms in America all do derive their basis from Judeo/Christian beliefs. That is incontrovertable fact.

There might very well be a better way to state this, but... morals come from a desire to live and interact rationally with other human beings in accordance with observable reality.

Maybe somebody can correct me and/or articulate it better.

Crank, I would argue that determining morality based on allegiance to God or a 'higher power' does more harm than good. History is rife with examples, ranging from the Crusades to Jihadi's of today.

Your assuming that people of faith share the same values. You're mistaken. People of your faith, share your values and people of other faiths coming from other than Judeo-Christian roots may believe something quite different. As my old Sunday school teacher once said, who am I to argue with 200 million Hindus?

Times change, as you said, "There were also, at one time, scientists who thought the earth was flat." Today there are people who believe that the second coming is imminent and are preparing to be carried off to heaven. They are not necessarily any more correct than those who believed the Earth was the center of the universe 400 years ago.

See... it's all relative.

Personally, I don't think the God of the universe cares whether we judge his validity or not. The Bible says in Colossians 1:16(NIV) that "All things were created by him and for him." Therefore it is ABOUT him whether we choose to think of it in that way or not. I disagree with the comment that with more than one god around, there is more than one absolute morality. If there is more than one supreme being around, then how can he be supreme?

Well stated arguments, Crank. My reference to Moore as a nutjob was not an argument against his position, more of a gentle suggestion that he wasn't worth arguing WITH.

If he wants to preach to the faithful, that's his business and theirs. My problem with him is strictly when he uses his (former) position on the Alabama Supreme Court Justice as his pulpit. Now that he's been booted, he seems to want to play the part of the martyr, which again is fine for the faithful. All I'm suggesting is the rest of us don't have to listen.

I will not argue religion because that is counter productive, but I will say this:
there seems to be something innate in us that tells us when we are doing wrong. Whether it is our mother's teaching, societies or God's, I do not know. I do know this, even small children can recognize it. Remember as a child and as a Mom, how often you said or have heard, "Mom, that's not fair." And the biggie is that children do recognize fairness, especially when it is unfairness against them. But they gladly, usually learn to share, to be gentle and to be HUMAN. Of course, there are some mistakes out there, BTK comes to mind, but in general most people conduct themselves as they would like to be done unto. (To paraphrase)

Crank, I would argue that determining morality based on allegiance to God or a 'higher power' does more harm than good. History is rife with examples, ranging from the Crusades to Jihadi's of today.

Of course, you can equally cite many examples of good deeds done in the name of religion, and great evils done in the name of state aetheism - I'm not going to get into the details of that argument on this thread. But again, you're making the utilitarian argument, and ignoring the foundational question of whether there really is any moral benchmark you can use if you abandon the whole idea of an external basis for seeing human rights and values as intrinsic. Also, the misuse of religion is not a disproof of the existence of God. People are weak and sinful.

Your assuming that people of faith share the same values.

No, I'm not.

As my old Sunday school teacher once said, who am I to argue with 200 million Hindus?

If you take that attitude, who are you to argue with Nazis or Communists or followers of bin Laden?

Today there are people who believe that the second coming is imminent and are preparing to be carried off to heaven. They are not necessarily any more correct than those who believed the Earth was the center of the universe 400 years ago.

Well, they may be right and they may be wrong. Although there's a pretty strong Scriptural basis for the notion that we know not the day nor the hour.

See... it's all relative.

Yes, it is. If you abandon first principles, it is. You prove my point.

Fascinating: given that (what appears to be) basic moral behaviors are exhibited among animals with higher brain functions (chimps, dolphins, etc), are we to assume that they have gods to give them these rules?

Or is it more likely that survival of the species has been enhanced by basic behavioral rules such as "don't kill within the group," "don't steal within the group," etc?

I wonder if the religious dolphins work as hard to marginalize the atheist ones...

Can a credible linkage be found between morality and an acknowledgment of God?

I would assert that mere acknowledgement of God is a poor indicator of the active influence of morality in a godly life. Much more than mere acknowledgement of God, 1) fervency and 2) balance of faith are most highly determinative of the quality of morality in the believer.

Those who do not acknowledge God will point to moral lapses among certain individuals who profess belief in God; such moral lapses only indicate that the individuals cited have a failing in the fervency and/or balance of their faith.

Those who do not acknowledge God will point to good deeds or noble conduct exhibited by avowed secularists and atheists as proof that acknowledgement of God has no effect on the establishment or preservation of morality. Those who do not acknowledge God fail to realize that the grace of God has a positive influence even upon those who refuse to submit to Him and deny His very existence.

In short, atheists have no idea the blessings an unrequited God showers upon them every day in every good thought, impulse, or tendency they experience. All the while they fail to understand the fact that were it not for God they would be dead to any propensity toward morality.

To those skeptics who believe faith in God is no more conducive to morality than non-faith in God, I would ask which of the two following philosophies is more conducive to morality: Christ’s ‘Golden Rule,’ or the ‘dog eat dog’ of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest?”

As regarding Judge Moore in particular, I find myself in sympathy with his beliefs, yet in disagreement with his methods.

Confederate Yankee:
"I'm not sure Christianity can or should be singled out as the only "right" religion as Moore seems to imply here, but our morality, laws and societal norms in America all do derive their basis from Judeo/Christian beliefs. That is incontrovertable fact."

There is no separation of powers in the Bible, Torah, or elsewhere. There is no freedom of religion in the Judeo/Christian tradition. Freedom of speech didn't get anywhere until Martin Luther kicked some Catholic ass and took names (and even that was an intra-religious dispute long before any actual Protestant churches appeared).

The great achievement of our Founding Fathers was to look at the historical record of religious persecution (including those dandy devout Pilgrims who used witch scares to steal all the best lands in Salem) and keep religion at arms length from our government. Life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness can be inalienable rights from our Creator or from nothing at all, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that they said we have those rights, we get to use them, and no government gets to infringe on those rights (though "property" didn't make the final draft before it was replaced by "the pursuit of happiness").

There is no separation of powers in the Bible, Torah, or elsewhere.

Give to God what is God's, and to Caesar what is Caesar's. The separation of earthly from religious power was always implicit in Jesus' refusal to pursue earthly kingship as He was expected to do. Many of the theoretical foundations for the separation come from St. Augustine's efforts to explain the distinction between Church and State during/after the fall of Rome - he was attempting to convince people that the Church didn't end with Rome.

I think it was Dostoevsky who said "If God does not exist, then all is permitted." I think one of the things that causes a lot of people to be moral is the sense that there is some sort of "cosmic justice," be it God, Allah, some sort of karmic system, what have you, that is ultimately inescapable. If a person believes, really and truly, that there is nothing after death, that there is no cosmic order here in life, that good deeds go unrewarded and wicked deeds unpunished, then there is nothing to prevent that person from committing wicked acts except the fear of getting caught. And if a person believes that they can avoid getting caught, not even that. One of the foundations of Nietzche's idea of the superman was the death of God. If God was dead, then the superman did not have to fear any kind of judgment, and was free to act as he pleased. Indeed, Nietzche found this sort of behavior to be admirable, and conventional morality contemptible. However, what Nietzche failed to recognize is that this standard--a person who is totally amoral--is only beneficial to the superman himself, and only so long as only a few people are doing it. Once everybody starts doing it, life becomes as Thomas Hobbes described it, "nasty, brutish, and short." Virtually every belief system in the history of the world has incorporated some sort of belief in cosmic justice, precisely for this reason. Once people begin to see that there is nothing to fear except each other, they act as they please. The best example of this is in mob behavior. People act more violently in mobs than they would alone because they feel that they are less likely to get caught.

"In short, atheists have no idea the blessings an unrequited God showers upon them every day in every good thought, impulse, or tendency they experience."

Until throwing them into the it of Hell for all eternity because "Hey, this hurts me more than it hurts you."

"All the while they fail to understand the fact that were it not for God they would be dead to any propensity toward morality."

What's funny is that it's really the ominpotent, omniscient, and sometimes-benevolent Binky the Magic Space Clown behind it all. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

Crank,

So when Jesus returns, he'll obey the laws of men? I guess that whole "King of Kings" stuff is nothing other than public relations blather.

Jesus probably broke a few laws as he wandered among the moneylenders. He interfered with executions (though whether or not it was a civil, criminal, or religious court that convicted the whore is an anachronistic argument). He changed religion. He questioned authorities (religious and civil) and paid the price.

His throwaway comment regarding taxes isn't enough to claim as a base for the separation of church and state. (Not to mention the "separation of powers", which was what I was referring to: the way in which the branches of government check and balance each other because men are imperfect and greedy? That thing not found in many governmental entities founded upon the Judeo/Christian tradition? Yes, that.)

I was reading Nietzsche's Will to Power today. He hated Christianity, no doubt. But he harbored admiration for what he called an AFFIRMATIVE religion...

Mohammed, he said, created a religion truly fit for the uberman.

I always knew Nietzsche was a blow hard. I just think it's fitting that over 100 years ago in his arrogance he said that Mohammed was all that.

The spirit of Nietzsche survives among moral relativists today. Some of them, too, have a sweet spot for radical Islam over American Christians.

It must be a disease.

jon - No, at that point, humanity as we know it, at least in terms of its need for earthly governments, will be at an end. The point is, Jesus did not establish religious rule, and in fact drew pointed distinctions between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men.

Oh, and sorry, I just assumed you were making a sloppily phrased reference to separation of Church and state.

If we get a fucking theocracy, I'm outta here!

Michelle,

Your point is well taken: insofar as you have "more than one God hanging around, there is more than one absolute morality. Who's to say that yours is right and theirs is wrong?"

What Moore does not say is that there is one God, who is worshipped by Orthodox Christians (including Roman Catholics) and Orthodox Jews. In this context, Moore's words are meaningful. Dare I say, it is only in this context that his words are meaningful. Any who think otherwise would do well to read your blog post again. The uniqueness of Christianity is that Christians believe in such unequivocal truths and that these derive from one God. Islam is a 7th-century ripoff of said religious beliefs.

And you are right to say that "Using a higher power as the grounds for determining what's moral or not is sometimes a cop out, sometimes an excuse."

But that said, if some dogma or magisterial teaching is indeed valid - dare we say "endorsed by God Himself" - then should we not pay it mind? Why would God waster His time to tell us these things otherwise? If it's all bunk, I would maintain that morality is meaningless.

Therefore, I must conclude that either God is truly guiding Orthodox Christianity or there is no God (god) at all.

And if God is indeed instructing the Apostles (bishops) via the Ecumenical Councils' Dogmatic declarations and the guidance of the Pope of Rome, then morality derives from His considerations and instruction, right? Therefore, it would seem that there is no morality without Him.

I've often said that ethics is decided by agreement, whereas morality is established by God. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter, perhaps in a future blog post. That said, it's not as funny or entertaining as most of what you write. :)

Thanks for keeping such an awesome blog!!

Here's a few interesting snippets from around the web, by people whose thoughts on this topic I value and agree with:

1) From E. G. Ross:

I believe in only one law: the law of God the Almighty and Jesus His Son. Without Him at the head of earthly laws, there can be no moral basis for them. God is morality. If history shows us anything, it shows us that earthly law that is not based on godly law is no law at all. What say you?
—Godly in Galveston

I say you misread history. The evidence suggests that law is derived less from purported divine inspiration than from simple human experience with what is right and wrong—i.e., with what helps life and civilization as opposed to what thwarts them.

The bulk of law in history has been common law—codes of behavior derived from trial and error, tradition, and even from dictatorial or kingly edict. Law—sometimes excellent in quality—predated the modern Western concept of God by thousands of years. This fact alone refutes your implication that law is "no law" unless based on your particular conception of the divine. It's a fact that much secular law has been bad law. I grant you that. But there is scant evidence that good law has come primarily from divine inspiration (or at least from what certain men have said is divine inspiration)—or that godly law has inspired only good law. The Inquisition and every instance of theocracy have certainly refuted that.

When you pore over case law, not just in this nation but in others, you are struck by the vastness of the human experience and how it has impelled the evolution of law. There is little mention of divine inspiration. While there is some, it is primarily in passing—more in the nature of "In God We Trust" on US paper money, or "so help me God" as a tradition of court oaths, or references to the Ten Commandments.

Yet the great bulk of law refers to human experience and is drawn directly from it. The facts tell us that good law is consistent with man's nature, including his requirements as a free being. Religious law—like secular law—has sometimes upheld that nature, but has often contravened it. I find little support for your view that religious law has more reliably inspired the legal culture. Indeed, the farther we've moved from theocracy, the better law has become. No, not perfect. Just better. The US is the world's best example. It is the first society with a codified separation of church and state; with a deliberate legal prohibition on theocracy; with a conscious reliance on reason and experience rather than faith and dogma as the inspiration for law.

Other good food for thought:
Morality As A Limit on Action
Goodness Through a Mystical Lens
Faith Over Reason? Chickens Come Home to Roost
Religion Vs. Morality

I wouldn't call Islam a ripoff of Judeo/Christian religion any more than Christianity is a ripoff of Judaism. That, even to an atheist like me, is being too flippant in dismissing a religion.

Islam recognizes Adam, Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus, and Mohammed as prophets (I think I missed someone: Noah? anyone else?) and says it's worshipping the same god. I never met the big guy and asked him myself to confirm that, but I'm willing to just take their word for it.

Speaking of first principles, starting from the concept that absolute morality derives from a higher being with spotty or capricious communication skills doesn't logically follow as the best option any more than the notion that absolute morality derives from a system of mutually agreed-upon rules originally concieved by increasingly intelligent hominids coming up with better ways to work and live together. Either (including the notion of absolute morality at all) is a leap of faith- but as others have pointed out, one necessary to have a functional society. You MUST start from the premise that a person is more important than a rock and go from there, or you go nowhere at all.

In any case, all one has to do is pick up the Bible and have a look at Leviticus, or go back through the history of ethical philosophy (like good old Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas) to demonstrate that believers wind up with just as many difficulties with what absolute morality actually is as unbelievers.

I also don't believe there's a damn thing built-in about morality- one only has to look at the savage children that increasingly emerge from situations where they've recieved basically zero parenting to understand that. The only thing small children understand, morally speaking, is that right and wrong are defined from the premise of "Does it please me, and will I get caught?" The rest comes later; I believe child psychologists even have a table of development for it. (Which is, perhaps, why that's where the religious moral premise starts- yes, you WILL get caught.)

Oh, and speaking as a biologist- kiddies, don't take ANY of your moral cues from nature. Most primate species are vicious little fucks, and the ones we're genetically closest to are very creative about it. I happen to believe it's the ability to make abstract moral considerations that makes us special.

... my higher power is "he/she who holds power over me at the moment"... that could be my wife, my boss, my parents, my school teachers, my local/stae/federal govt., the military, the pilot (or the guy driving the bus), my Dr... etc. etc...
... fear of consequences which affect me negatively/positively is a huge driving force in my decision making...
... if you accede power over your life & after-life to a god, your decision making is affected accordingly...
... it's all about power over you... he/she who holds power, sets the rules...
... I submit that we are all incapable of following our own morality when it conflicts with that of the power-wielder...

A man living alone in the wilderness can be an amoral person, doing no harm to any other individual. Once he has a neighbor he requires a moral code of conduct. Once there are several living in the community, we have a "forced" moral code of conduct called "law". Law is essentially the "minimum of morality for man to cohabit with man".

When the man lived alone he needed no law to pevent him from stealing from his neighbor, assaulting his neighbor, raping his neighbor's spouse or child simply because he had no neighbor. Once he had ONE neighbor, all of the above laws were effectual - thus, a moral code of conduct was required - and it was required regardless of his religious affiliation or his neighbor's religious affiliation.

I do not believe that the paragraph above gives proper context to Moore's full statement.While I abhorr the thought of any theoracy religion has and does serve a great purpose in that it is the foundation for any civil society by most mordern standards. Those Fanatacal sects wahabism is the example. They are simply a means to subjagate.while some christian denominations are somewhat rigid for my self. We cannot deny the fact that the fall of every great nation was preceded by a complete breakdown in morals.I cannot remember Pat Robinson , Jerry Fawell or the Pope calling for the Murder of people of other religions.