Rachels Chapter 4
Does Morality Depend on Religion?
The presumed connection
if there's no good and bad consequences in the afterlife depending
on how we behave in this life people have less reason to be good
values & meaningfulness go together; and a world without God is meaningless
goodness out of fear of hell-fire is wishy washy
sort of goodness
if it does make you do the right thing
still, it's for the wrong reason
to save your ass
a self-interested (& selfish?) reason
as a matter of fact many atheists are people of good
contributors to society
as a matter of fact many who are deeply religious
are bad -- consider the history of religious wars & persecutions --
even up to our own day.
Must a Godless world be meaningless?
The Divine Command Theory
"Good" means "commanded by God".
The Socratic dilemma or "Euthyphro Question":
Does God command it because it's good or is it good because God commands
Suppose the latter: it's good because God commands it: makes morality unacceptably
God would have no reason to command one thing rather than the other since
nothing would be better than anything else prior to God's commanding it
God might equally well have commanded murder and mayhem rather than love
Note you can't say -- well God wouldn't command murder and mayhem because
God is "good"
what could "good" mean here? That God commands God?
Suppose the former: then you no longer have the Divine Command Theory
If God commands things because they're good
Then they must've been good before God commanded them
So goodness <> being commanded by God
So the Divine Command theory is untenable.
Reality is a rational order with values and purposes built in
the whole has an overall purpose or direction
b. the parts have their own functions or purposes within the grand design
good = natural and bad = unnatural
to act in conformity with this larger purpose or nature (hence these subsidiary
ones) is natural and good
to act otherwise is unnatural and bad
The natural (moral) law is discoverable by reason -- not dependent on revelation.
Objections to Natural Law theory
Is cannot entail an ought:
does not follow from the fact that we do seek something
that we should do so
even proponents of nat. law do not identify every end that something actually
does tend toward as its aim or function
sex does in fact produce pleasure (usually), but proponents of this view
insist that that is not its purpose
The teleological view of nature is contrary to contemporary scientific
understanding; no purposes built-in to nature
Christianity and the Problem of Abortion
Some people claim to have more direct religious insights into what's right
Perhaps -- though God's commands don't make
things right -- they show us what is right; though not constitutive
of goodness, they're informative about goodness (LH).
Some people claim scriptural authority -- that we are bound as Christians
-- to take certain moral (and even legal) stances
that homosexuals should be condemned for their sexual practices
that abortion should be outlawed from the moment of conception
Is the Bible a reliable guide?
What does it say?
What morals can be drawn from what it says?
Reasons to think the book itself unreliable
disbelief in God as its author
its obscure & sometimes seems to give contradictory guidance
Further reasons for doubting the morals people claim to draw from scripture
Bad Faith: they are reading in their own beliefs -- scripture as mirror
LH: no injunctions against smoking pot or snorting
coke are found in the Bible
indeed the Bible says "I have given you every plant
yeilding seed which is upon the face of the earth" (Genesis 1:29).
yet some people talk as if we have a clear obligation
as Christians to forbid & punish these activities
no injunctions specifically against abortion
The most specific thing relating to abortion in the Bible: Ex.21:22 supports
religious considerations do not provide definitive solutions to the moral
problems that confront us
this realization does not depend on assuming that Christian belief is false
even if true, morality is an independent matter
Murder is punishable by death (Ex. 21:12)
Deliberately causing a woman to miscarry is punishable by a fine. (Ex.
Therefore: Abortion is not Murder.