Do gods exist? 16 What is morality?

Photo: star cluster NGC 3201 from NASA & ESA/Hubble

What is morality? This is the sixteenth of a series of short posts about whether gods exist and why the question is an important one.

What do I mean by morality? I make a distinction between good and bad, which relate to outcomes, and right and wrong, which relate to intentions.

An outcome is objectively bad for a sentient being if it harms that sentient being by causing it to needlessly suffer. An action is objectively wrong if the agent of the action unjustly harms a sentient being.

In any given situation, because so many factors are interacting, it can be easy or hard to know what is good and bad or right and wrong.

However, if there was an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful god that is the source of morality and cares about human beings on planet Earth, then at a minimum, we would expect it to be able to give us all the same moral message.

If that happened, we would expect to see that different sets of people at different times and different places in the world would have the same sense of morality. But this not what we see.

On the other hand, if there are no gods, then we would expect to see that different sets of people at different times and different places in the world would be evolving different ideas and codes of morality. And this is indeed what we do see.

In parallel to applying reason to the evidence of reality, in order to try to understand what is objectively true about reality, we can also apply reason to the evidence of our behaviour, in order to try to understand what is objectively true about morality.

It is simply false to suggest that we need the idea of a god to assist us in doing this. There are many approaches to moral philosophy that do not invoke gods.

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1 Comment

  1. Michael ‘belief’ in a God or Gods is just a belief – taught amongst the 1st homosapiens – possibly neanderthals & even the homo erectus who were trying to make sense of their existence and meaning of life. Did the earliest homosapiens not believe each star @ night was a God and that the greatest of all the celestial bodies – & so the most powerful of all these Gods – was the sun? Because it was visible during the day. Did belief in one God not start in modern day Ethiopia? Ethiopia was previously called Abyssinia. (sp?) Did it g
    have names before then?

    Were the 1st tribe to believe in one God called The Falashi? Maybe their ancestors as they journeyed our of Africa settled in what we call Armenia & neighbouring Russia? Was this not where the Jewish faith was 1st written as a means of creating a common identity for people across borders.

    The Romans wanted to create a shared Roman identiry for all in the Roman empire as they believed if people in the empire had a Roman identity they would not steal the wealth Rome had plundered as it was being transported back to Rome

    The Emperor Constantine 1st used the messianic cult of the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, to introduce a new monorheist faith and ‘church’ which provided the means to provide a Roman identity universally in all of Rome’s empire

    I could continue and I will if you want but not now.

    En toutoi nika,

    Dundas

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