This is a decent argument overall, but I think you're leaving a lot on the table in regards the Hebrew God's so-called morality. You can list God's crimes of genocide, infanticide, endorsement of slavery, ethnic favoritism, not to mention his laundry list of absurd, petty and utterly useless commandments outside of the original ten. These would include things like circumcision and commandments regarding the proper fabrics to wear, types of food to eat, what days to work on and when to fast or not. Only a twisted, sadistic, misguided, uneducated and brutish degenerate would point to these things and call them morality.
Further, shortly after giving his original ten commandments, Yahweh goes on to break just about every one of them by instructing the Israelites to pillage, steal, murder, and abuse anybody who gets in the way of their proclaimed Holy Land. So here we have a god who is willing to break his own rules on whim for certain people of his choosing. Does this sound like a true moral agent at work here? Of course not. God's actions are that of a sociopath.
The question isn't "How can you be moral without God?" It's "How can you possibly be moral WITH God?" Why do Christians promote belief in and defend the heinous ramblings of a god who has committed the kinds of crimes and atrocities against his own creation as those described in the book he supposedly wrote?
Excellent comment! I have an essay in the works whose subject is, "How can you worship a God that orders the killing of infants?" We are definitely on the same page with this one.
Thanks for stopping by!
-Most of these arguments don't work if the audience doesn't believe in a literal devil. Even if they did, however, they could simply argue that "In ancient times, God spoke to people and performed miracles, revealing himself. We can therefore know that it was God who gave us (or inspired, etc) the bible, based on that experience. We must take it on faith that everything happened as described in the bible."
-An easy response to the test argument is "well, we can pass God's test by following his bible, so we should be punished if we don't. The test is one of willpower, not knowledge."
-It might be best to mention how many different religions have the same core moral principles to establish that no single religion has a monopoly on morality. Then, it may be possible to suggest that the morality is something humans impose upon themselves through society. Those who take the bible as a metaphor may counter with the argument that the same god speaks to humans around the world through different books (for core principles only, not the details). Pointing out instances of genocide, rape, etc in various holy books may be helpful here. At that point, giving any examples of human moral philosophy from before monotheism would be a coup de grace.
** the near eastern “divinities” know only submission to authority **
You have only to step outside monotheistic thought patterns to understand how much western atheists and theists alike operate on the narrowest bandwidth of knowledge.
If your model of religion is based on the big-3 near eastern monster-theisms, you won’t even understand non-theistic philosophical theories and practices so vigorously quashed by the hope-faith-charity crowd for the last 2,000 years:
1. Xian “ethics” is not ethical at all.
2. The ethic of Confucius is superior to those of near eastern monotheisms.
3. There is no inherent relationship between religion and morals.
Jesus’ ethic is irrational, otherworldly, and impractical. It promises much, and delivers nothing. Jesus’ “interim ethic” couldn’t outlast one generation of true believers. After all, the world was about to end. (Sermon on the Mount — search term: interim ethic)
The fideistic irrationality of Paul of Tarsus with its anti-intellectualism, misogyny, and revenge seeking has poisoned the West for 2,000 years. After all, the world was about to end and Christ would soon return to elevate believers and damn everyone else — but he didn’t show up and the world goes on. (Read 1Cor1:20-30 NIV)
Chinese culture was far luckier. From that very rational, this worldly, and practical book, The Analects [Conversations], attributed to Confucius.
Five hundred years before mytho-Jesus and hysteric Paul, Confucius was eons ahead of contemporary xian (jewish/islamist) thinking:
6:20 Fan Ch’ih asked what constituted wisdom. The Master said, “To give one’s self earnestly to the duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.”
Get the point? No relationship between religion, “spiritual beings” and ethics, “the duties due to men.” The latter cannot be understood in terms of the former.
15:23 Tsze-kung asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not ‘reciprocity’ such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” [trans. S.R. McIntyre 2003]
What follows? No religion police!
No prelate, priest, pastor, rabbi, imam is needed to dictate human behavior — submit to some god’s self-appointed ministers.
All ethics is irreducibly social (but not utilitarian). Harming others cannot be generalized; otherwise, no culture could exist.
Note: 1Cor1:20-30 NIV is shorthand for ‘the book in the New Testament named First Corinthians, the first chapter, verses 20-30 in the English translation named the New International Version.’ Hold your nose, these first xians smell bad.
the anti-supernaturalist ©2009
Thanks for your comment. I have to disagree with your statement that the audience has to believe in a literal devil. I use the devil in my argument as an easy to understand supernatural foil. The argument is just as strong as long as a supernatural agent that talks to you is POSSIBLY evil. Of course, if you have a clear conception of good and evil and this supernatural agent aligns with your notion of good, you've come a long way in showing why we don't need a God to tell use what is good. If you do not have a clear conception of good and evil, then why should you expect this supernatural agent to be right in these matters?
@MaxBro - @ MaxBro Interesting observation and argument you make. You talk of God's morality that is in question based on the examples you make, but are leaving out his other attributes including holiness and justice. If a family member of yours (and I hope this never happens) was a victim of a heinous crime, wouldn't you want justice for him or her? The criminal would face charges, be sent to prison and getting what he or she deserves. Justice was served. Would you call the state immoral for getting justice for the victim and punishing the criminal? Most would say the state was fully justified in punishing the criminal, so then why do people call it immoral when God does it? By the way I really enjoy, and intrigued reading atheist literature and commentary, and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, it actually is interesting to me.