Wednesday 29 October 2008

God and Moral Relativism- Hope in Hell

I wonder why it never occurs to Christian fundamentalists- or indeed any fundamentalist just how flawed the logic of their position is.

Because flawed it is.

Any position which defines anything as absolute is liable to be flawed. The position that it is absolute poverty not relative poverty that matters, that favoured position of so many right wing bloggers. What none of these bloggers can say, is what exactly absolute poverty is. How do we define it?

Of course it is relative poverty that matters. Poverty IS relative, that is the whole point. Since poverty itself is a concept, it relates to something. It isn't an absolute. It relates to people's well being within an environment. Are we seriously suggesting that human capacity to deliver will increase perpetually with every technological advance, but the definition by which we judge quality of life remains just slightly better than life as a Chimpanzee?

Of course not. The universe only contains two absolutes; absolute zero and the speed of light in a vacuum.

Now I think that the argument that it is absolute poverty, not relative poverty that matters, is a damaging enough proposition. But I'm not going to argue that one in this post. That can wait.

What I am going to challenge is the idea that morality is an absolute, not a relative concept.
Because it has to be the most ridiculous proposition ever seriously maintained in a society which aspires to human dignity.

The idea that there can be a set of morals which hold as an absolute, that will aid social cohesion and improve quality of life in any given set of circumstances and will remain the best way to live in any era of technological development.

Now the point is a simple one. If you believe that morality is relative you believe- as I do- that morals are a code of living whereby we try find ways to reconcile our own selfish urges with finding ways to live together in ways that benefit us all. Morals are a system, a code. Transgressors are punished because they make society worse to live in.

If you believe morality is absolute, you believe that morality was invented by God to tell us how to live and transgressors are punished because they offend God.

That at the start of time, God wrote down a code of morals to last for all time.

Now I'd simply like to put to Christian fundamentalists and defenders of the idea of Absolute Morality what the consequences of their position means.

You are postulating a God, who invents Man and gives him Free Will. And a conscience. And a mind capable of reasoning. Ok, so far so good.
But in his early days, Man needs a code to live by.

These are hard times, living in the desert in a thousand BC. So let's make up some rules. The best way not to infect eachother with syphilis is to stick to one partner and not have sex which can't result in children. As in, no gay sex. And don't eat congealed blood, it's poisonous. Pork is a bit ropey too.
And a whole host of other rules.

Rules which kept society functioning well in those days. And people could see God rewarded them. Adopt God's rules, live better, live longer. It worked.

God was just. Can't really knock him then, I'll give the fundamentalists that.

But- why did he give us a rational brain then? And a conscience? And emotions?

Why did he create a man capable of making all these amazing discoveries about his universe.

Are we REALLY expected to accept a God who gives Man the capacity to mean that sex can be practised WITHOUT spreading syphilis and WITH people still knowing parentage, and yet forbids it still?

A God who now maintains such edicts, because they last for all time?
Why does the edict exist? Why IS it immoral?

The fundamentalists have only one answer. Because God says so.

In other words, certain things are immoral because they just are. Always have been and always will be.

Even though more misery is caused by enforcing these prohibitions than having the prohibition removed.

In other words, God will send you to Hell NOT because you increased human misery, but because you broke his rules.
Therefore God actually has rules for the sake of having them. God will actually enforce rules which no longer serve human happiness. God is quite happy for people to be born gay and they live in a world where humanity, using the brains God gave them have created a society where practising the inclinations God gave them can be totally harmless, but God will still send them to Hell. God will send you to Hell even if you hurt nobody.

Now, hasn't God been a bit cruel somewhere along the line here?

He's given humanity the brains to develop a world in which breaking the rules he originally set, causes no harm, in fact IMPROVES human happiness, yet he will punish humanity for those infractions.

It's a bit like when you were little you're parents saying 'Don't play with matches. Even when you're grown up enough to use them.'

God has given humanity a set of rules to live by which he expects humanity to obey EVEN WHEN THEY NO LONGER ACTUALLY ADD TO HUMAN HAPPINESS on pain of eternal damnation.

Is that not rather a cruel, arrogant and capricious deity?

And doesn't it rather make a lie of his protestations of love? That he will damn human beings, not because they break his commandments of love, but because they break commandments which the logic he gave them can't see the reason behind and conflicts with the desires he gave them?

If that really is true, then didn't our maker really just create beings to obey him? To live out a life test and see if they could obey him just for the sake of obeying him, when it didn't in fact serve their individual interests OR the combined interests of all his creations? Just his whim?

Do you really want to meet this guy when you die?

And what moral authority DOES he have to be obeyed?

None. If this vision is true, we HAVE to obey him, simply because he's omnipotent. Simply because we have no choice. Simply because if we don't, we spend eternity in Hell.

So is that it? The basis of morals? 'Abandon Hope all ye who here enter?'

If this version is true, we were created by a liar. A deity who gave us brains that collectively reason wrongly. That use the very working of the universe to improve our lot in ways which allows us to lead better lives if we change the laws he originally made to suit ourselves. We have a deity who deliberately set up a universe in which our striving for happiness would cause us to break more and more of his laws.

And we have a deity who tells us the prime motivation is love, and yet who devises arbitrary rules that don't actually aid a world in which more people live together feeling love for eachother.

Why should we trust such a God?

If this is the God that exists, than obedience is in fact, an act of slavery, he is a tyrant we obey only because there is no hope of overthrowing him.

Because this God doesn't want us to be the thinking, loving beings he claims he created us to be. Just blind devotees.

And if that is right, then what value has his promise of an afterlife?
Why should he be telling us true on that one?

And even if he is telling truth, is that the eternity you want? Sitting for ever in the presence of the omnipotent tyrant?

If that really is God, then we're better off saying 'Fuck you God, this is the way you made us, if you didn't want us to be happy, you shouldn't have made us. Go on, damn us.'

If God wants to damn us for using the brains he gave us to devise ways to live that make us all happier than we would be if we followed his rules, then that God deserves to sit in Heaven alone.

And we'll at least be able to spend time with the one guy who dared stand up to the capricious vanity of such a creator. Maybe he's the good guy after all- if the fundamentalist version really is so, he must be.

And in which case, Hell ain't so bad.

If you really believe this fundamentalist vision, then your only real hope is to hope that if this God suddenly realises everyone is against him, even he won't destroy his own universe out of spite.

The fundamentalist God gives meaning to the words 'Hope in Hell'.

But if you really believe in a God of Love and a God of Reason, you believe that God had faith in his creation. You believe that God gave Mankind the gifts to one day be able to work out how to live without needing to go and look in writings dating back to the Iron age.

You believe that God actually wants a world where the total sum of human happiness is what it's all about, where God doesn't make rules for the sake of rules.
And a world where God can actually look down on his creation and say 'Ok, you're getting the hang of Love. I think you can figure out what rules to make for yourselves'.

If God wanted robots, and made people instead, then he's a cruel God indeed.

I suppose the last question I want to ask the fundies is this; Do you believe God loves you enough to allow you to use the gifts he gave you to try find a world in which we can be happier than we were when these rules were first made?

Do you believe in a God who wants to be obeyed, or a God who wants people to find the greatest happiness they can in their lives?

Absolute Morality indeed.

A creed appropriate for Absolute Monarchs.

If God wanted us to free ourselves from Kings, then morality is relative.

Absolute Morality is the creed of tyrants.


Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant analysis. I agree with you - I don't want to meet the fundamentalist Christians' version of God in the afterlife.

I offer one additional piece of evidence to your treatise: Poor Eve is blamed for eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, offered to her by a talking serpent. Painful childbirth, and being women, in general, is their punishment. Let's think about this; Adam was created, and God told HIM not to take the apple from that tree. Then God created Eve, so Adam wouldn't be alone (let's forget those pesky dinosaurs and cavemen for a moment). Eve never heard the "do not eat the apple" speech, yet she, and all women, were doomed and blamed for it. Goes right along with your theory - let's punish the humans for the very intellectual curiosity that God gave to them. Ironic. Great post!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that an extrarational position can be defended logically, but that might not be the point. There have been many instances over the years where faith and reason have collided, with reason depicted by church elders as "traps" set to "test faith." Thus, logic is seen as evil.

After all, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since then, the association between knowledge and rationality have always been associated with evil.