This is part of a series of notes in response to "What's So Great About Christianity" by Dinesh D'Souza
Chapter 20 | Natural Law and Divine Law: The Objective Foundations of Morality
I will admit that understanding of various moral systems is not a strong point at this particular time. I am definitely perplexed by the competing theories of morality but remain rather ignorant about the strengths and weaknesses of all of them, e.g. divine command theory, relativism, forms of utilitarianism, etc. My primary objection to D'Souza's appeal to our perception of objective moral values existing and having them received from God is that they seem to reduce to a sort of relativism in practice anyway. For example, how is one to actually know what such values are? Various churches seem to interpret them differently and disagree. How can we be sure one or more churches or any church got them right?
I do agree with his point that the relativist has some serious issues. What's right might not be right at some future time or in some hypothetical situation. This is a tough spot and I at least wish for objective moral values, but again am at a loss for exactly how to defend them. Such systems seem to rest on defining what "the good" is, but again, D'Souza will have the same problems, I think. "The good" in his system is probably something like "doing the will of God." But why is that good? Is it good for God's sake and that's all? What if God commanded the extermination of a group of nonbelievers? Would that be good? Or is it good only because it leads to heaven and that's the ultimate good? If that's the ultimate good… why? Because it's eternal happiness and bliss? Or simply because it's with God? If being with God was eternal misery, would it still be the ultimate good? If not, then it seems that heaven and hell are rather arbitrary and we are using "the good is doing God's will" to simply mean that doing the good will result in eternal happiness.
If that is the case, then naturalists should not have any problem doing the good for "temporary happiness." Either basis for objective moral values is the same except one relies on eternal life existing and the other does not.
In any case, the other issue I have with D'Souza's ending is when he says that:
"...conscience is nothing other than the voice of God within our souls. It is the bridge that links the creature to the creator. Even the atheist hears this internal clarion call because even the atheist has morality at the core o his being, and while the atheist may have rejected God, God has not rejected him." (237)
For starters, for an atheist to "reject God," he would have to know he existed and be actively rejecting God's attempts to reveal himself or denying his existence in light of sufficient evidence. I can't think of an analogy in life except being perhaps too mad to listen to a loved on apologize and choosing to plug one's ears instead. But can a suitable analogy even being to describe how one can reject God based on a lack of evidence and personal relationship?
In any case, the second issue I have is what follows if God does use consciences to speak to humans. Essentially, if God is able to speak to humans through moral inclinations, why could he not have spoken to use more directly through our "hearts" or minds? Typically, free-will is used to reject the notion that God would ever "make" anyone believe in him. But if moral inclinations still allow for free-will, then surely God could place a desire for his one, true form inside of each human at least as strong as the desire to abstain from murder and the eating of feces. These two inclinations, one moral and one instinctual, are not said to override my ability actually chose these actions, but it almost seems impossible. Why, then, could God not have universally planted a similar desire for or sense of himself within all humans? How incredible it would be for everyone on every continent to yearn for the same God and to find all false religions simply unappealing or repulsive. This would be a fantastic mountain of evidence for humans to believe in him.
Instead, however, I'm left with arguments very similar to those presented at the beginning of the book. I have a conundrum in that I'm not sure about morality and am not sure whether evolution satisfactorily explains it or not… but either way, it doesn't suggest to me that the best answer is, "and therefore, the God of Christianity exists."
To Ch 21: The Ghost in the Machine >>