Divine command theory

James has written a comment on his blog to clear any questions I might have with DCT.  Unfortunately, I find his attempt unsuccessful and if you can bear with me, I will explain in a minute. In order that he doesn’t claim I have misrepresented him, I will use his definition of DCT and work from there.

He writes

The Divine Command Theory (DCT) essentially teaches that a thing (i.e., action, behavior, choice, etc.) is good because God commands it to be done or evil because God forbids it from being done. Thus, to say that it is good to love our neighbors is semantically equivalent to saying God commands us to love our neighbors. Similarly, it is evil to commit murder because God forbids murder.

My contention is that man doesn’t conceive his god as good or bad. The god idea, originating from our primitive past and from people mainly practical isn’t conceived as good or bad. The primitive person has her/ his god answering to a particular purpose. Either it is the community preserver, avenger among others but never as a good or bad god. The idea that god is good is, I contend, a recent idea. I think it is a christian idea.

The god of the Jews, the one we find in the old testament is not anything close to good but is practical. If the Israelites want to grab land, they have him support it with Thus says the lord.. when Joshua wants to justify rapine, he has his god endorse it. When Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son, he had his god command it. There is nowhere in this instances god being conceived as a moral agent.

It seems to James is ignoring the very basis of morality, human association. To keep insisting god this or that doesn’t bring us any closer to resolving how it is we should act. Our only guide is reason and not revelation.

The rest of his post is what I can only describe as balderdash, an attempt to make sense of the absurd. And if there is any difference between TB’s position and James, it is one of degree not of kind. They both believe, god is good. God commands good. They both have no way of showing what god has commanded isn’t good. TB is consistent and honest.

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Where are the honest atheists?

Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature. Emmett F. Fields

They are everywhere.

I am not able to tell if Damon Linker is religious or not. Not that this is important to my thesis, but one gets tired with writers who think there is a right way to be atheistic. They behave as if they have a divine right in telling us how to live our godless lives. At such times I say stick it up.

Having said that, Linker writes, in part

It’s quite another to claim, as these authors also invariably do, that godlessness is not only true but also unambiguously good for human beings. It quite obviously is not

and I will gladly tell him that a thing isn’t obvious doesn’t make it wrong. The world has progressed simply because some men and women have dared to be different, to challenge what was believed as true. It is not to be construed as a weakness that the majority have not found atheism as true. It is to be blamed on their education and state of mind.

I disagree when he writes

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

on the contrary it isn’t tragic if atheism is true because it is only on the recognition that we are alone that men and women will work towards building healthier societies here. It has to be borne in mind that not many people have the capacity or the wherewithal to commit horrific evils, whatever this maybe. Sad as it may seem, such people don’t last long and they are not many. And what does Linker mean when he says random events? Isn’t this another way of saying events he is ignorant of? And why is Linker involved in this ego trip? Why should our lives matter in a larger sense? Is it not enough that it matters to us?

And I find it ridiculous that he mentions Nietzsche and goes ahead to say he is the rank and file of the few honest atheists. But Nietzsche the sham smasher held that we should kill gods so humanity could prosper. That the love of gods and by extension faith is the antithesis in the search of truth and in all cases is opposed to progress. Belief in gods require that man surrenders everything to god. To tell us the death of god presents a bleak picture for humanity is not to have read Nietzsche and to undervalue human initiative.

That some atheists are nostalgic about the glory of god doesn’t in any way make god belief true. All we can deduce from it is they wish for a god to be, not that a god is or even that a god is necessary.

When Linker writes

To reject religion does not merely entail facing our finitude without comforting illusions. It also involves the denial of something noble. It is perfectly fitting, Larkin seems to say, for an atheist to lament his lack of belief in a God who bestows metaphysical meaning on the full range of human desires and experiences.

I must ask, how does getting rid of a delusion or a lie be less than noble. Why should we pretend that there is something noble in a lie, even if the lie is 2000 years old? There is nothing for the atheist to lament and if he must lament, then it should be for the lost time believing in ghosts. That is worth lament and sorrow, but the freedom from delusion, nay. That deserves celebration. Man can now raise themselves high knowing they having no overbearing overlord to fear and it is all up to them to build their kingdom.

And I contend, there is no truth that religion conceals as Linker wants us to believe when he writes

It is a striking image, capturing at once the dignified beauty of religious ritual and its capacity to conceal the truth under a layer of intricate artifice: The whole point of the liturgy performed on the church altar, Larkin implies, is to seduce us with the beautiful and supremely fulfilling illusion that our worldly compulsions have cosmological meaning and significance.

I contend that Linker is stretching the truth when he says

It is a need, a hunger that never can be permanently satiated. But religion tries, understanding and responding to this crucially important aspect of humanity perhaps more fully than any other institution or practice.

for in the contrary, all religion does and manages to achieve is blind obedience to absurdities. And if in its dealings it appears to eschew any such qualities, it is to be remembered that it is not religion per se but that it wants to associate with such human qualities. It is this association with the greatest of human needs that has enabled religion to last so long.

I contend that Linker has failed in his attempt to demonstrate atheists, new atheists as he refers to them, are dishonest. What he has managed to demonstrate by an about way is that many people are not ready to accept the truth of atheism and its tidings. This I say has nothing to do with atheism itself.

Where are the honest atheists

what are my everyday experiences with the religious

I probably have mentioned it before that I live in a country where the religious are everywhere. Almost everything is deferred to god. When there is bad traffic snarl-up, people are praying on twitter, when the government fails in its duties there are prayers said and those in government also pray for god to help them. I have also mentioned that there is a church right at the gate to my flat and the next church is less than 50m away. Am not kidding.

That gives you a bit of background of how religion is embedded in my society.

My friends are of two groups. I have godless friends and goddites. I meet my godless friends rarely as compared to the goddites. Hell. I work with goddites. Almost everyone in the office is a goddite except the CEO. It is common knowledge in the office am godless. It is not an issue except for those who are privately praying for me to rejoin them.

I have had a few of my friends say they are praying for me but in general, they have left it as a matter of choice which I do my best to always try and dissuade them from. And if you are wondering whether I tell them religious belief in bonkers in their face as I do on the internet, yes I do. You see am a honest guy and I don’t like to hide. I tell those in school to decide on one course of action; either you are praying to pass exams or you are studying but not both because on the final analysis, one seems to me to be redundant. It is like over reinforcing a house. You end up with redundant members.

My immediate family is an interest case. They are almost all religious. They know am irreligious. No one asks me to pray nor do they insist I join them in talking to themselves. There is a lot of respect between us.

The only group of friends that piss me off are those religious ones who tell me they have become closer to their god since they met me. How would a person become more religious by interacting with a sham smasher! And of course the church at our gate. They make so much noise on Sundays I want to burn it down.

In general though I know the great influence religion has in my society, the people around me behave in a way that isn’t far from living like there is no god. No one bothers my peace and anytime someone brings gods in discussion I make it clear am godless.

on morality and pure practical reason

Fear is the mother of morality. Friedrich Nietzsche

In his post, Howie quoted a comment by a christian who believes whatever god commands, is good regardless of what we think about it. If anything, the christian in question is consistent. In this post, the theist thinks he has shown that reason is helpless in guiding us on how to live with each other.

He writes

Objective morals are those morals that are based outside of yourself. Subjective morals are those that depend on you, your situation, your culture, and your preferences. Subjective morals change, can become contradictory, and might differ from person to person. This is the best that atheism has to offer us as a worldview.

and I must ask that he lists just one such objective moral. I am patient and will wait.

In talking of pure practical reason, I can only believe he is referring to Kant who argued

act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law

there are no mentions of deities.

When James writes

Because when you remove God from the equation, you remove the standard by which all moral truth is established.

I must say he has gone off the rails completely. Morality, whatever it is, only makes sense to organisms living in community. It is relational. And only a blind person would be unable to see this. Men, having formulated morals made gods speak the same laws in order they be obeyed. When Solon and Lycurgus, the great lawgivers of the Greeks, formulated laws, they didn’t claim divine assistance.

I can only say he misrepresents atheists when he writes

To an atheist, lying, cheating, stealing, not harming others, and maximizing utility have to be reduced to mere phenomena that can, if the atheist so decides, have subjective moral values assigned to them. Yes, atheists can say that we all should want to help society function properly, and that it does not benefit society as a whole to lie, cheat, steal, harm others…

which as you can see are relational. Without relations, such things as lying, stealing and harming others make no sense. It is such accusation that makes me wonder are some people so blind? Any society where harming others is the norm is one that would not survive. Natural selection will eliminate it.

He says reason cannot guide us and then presents this

For example, I think everyone reading this, including those who shun objective morality, would agree that a judge sending a man he knew was innocent to prison would be wrong, especially wrong if you consider that prisoners often suffer needlessly horribly at the hands of other prisoners.

and why? Because reason tells us it is unjust to punish an innocent person, especially when you know them to be so unless of course you are god then you can kill all firstborn sons for the infractions of the king and command rapine because you can. If you are god, stopping the sun for a few hours so your favourite can massacre a whole population is very much moral.

Morality, I submit, only makes sense without gods because then we are able to understand that it is relational. We have no way of knowing what gods want but we can know how to relate with one another. Only a person blinded by his religion would not see this. So When Wally Fry comments thus

I am so far from a philosopher it is not even funny. These deep debates everybody has about the philosophy of morality just zips over me sometimes. On the other hand, deep philosophy is not needed to get the gist of morality; even a child can get it. No standard=equals no true morality. Standard=standard giver=God. It’s really not difficult to comprehend.

I can confidently say he is dumb as soup [Thanks Ark].