Imagine the councillors of a king we’ll call Kevin declare that everyone who violates Kevin’s laws deserve to be thrown into a dungeon and forgotten. But there is a problem. The laws are not publicized in every region that Kevin claims. However, the councillors insist that everyone can perceive the laws they are violating if they only attend to the spirit of Kevin that resides in each of their hearts. So, if a peasant lives consistent with a law the councillors claim is Kevin’s, the councillors claim that peasant has heard the spirit of Kevin. If a peasant does not live consistent with a law the councillors claim is Kevin’s, it is claimed that the peasant has consciously rebelled against the law they clearly perceive through Kevin’s spirit. However, there is a deeper problem. Kevin has been physically absent and apparently inaccessible for several centuries. He has left a book of rules, but the councillors themselves do not agree on the rules it contains. The councillors all claim Kevin is not the author of confusion, yet the book of laws Kevin has left is not at all rigorous in its listing and explanation of the rules, and has generated voluminous amounts of explanations and extrapolations by the councillors. They all claim the laws can be clearly seen with enough study under their tutorage, but there is no agreement on what laws are actually Kevin’s laws, and which laws have been invented by a “false” councillor. What would you think?
Does the Bible look like the source of moral laws? If you were to write a book of essential moral laws, would you not make them so clear that no reader could ever be confused about their application and scope? If slavery is a horrible practice, would you not define slavery extremely rigorously and unequivocally state slavery was unacceptable in any case? And if you were able to dispatch a spirit that communicated those laws to the hearts of humans, would you not make that spirit speak in a voice so indisputable and comprehensible there would be no confusion about its message? Do you think a clear moral set of laws is to be found in the Christianity you perceive?
Or do the disparate moral inclinations we see in our world better reflect disparate emotional and cultural dispositions? Does not the distribution of laws and taboos we see imposed on societies around the world better map to a normal distribution of emotional and cultural dispositions instead of the unequivocal injunctions of a God of the universe who would not tease us with vague passages that might or might not contain moral content for our age? What kind of God who truly wanted to minimize suffering would not make rules pertaining to slavery and the killing of others so clear there would never be a need for a discussion or debate? Would not an actual God be able to do this? Would not an actual God do this?
When you read the Bible or on your knees consult the spirit of the author of morality, do you receive clear parameters on appropriate behavior? Or are you forced to consult a “councillor” of God to help you sort things out?
The following is a list of questions, most quite relevant to modern life, one can ask of Christian leaders who claim to have a clear source of objective morality. Simply ask these questions of any group of allegedly true Christians, and assess the degree of convergence among their answers. Ensure participants do not consult with each other prior to administering this list of questions.
- What constitutes a legitimate (fully moral) marriage?
- Under what conditions may one legitimately divorce?
- Is masturbation immoral?
- Are particular sex acts by a married couple immoral?
- It is immoral to marry a pre-menstrual girl?
- Is polygamy immoral?
- Under what conditions would it be right to kill an infant?
- Is the eating of dead relatives as practice by some cultures immoral?
- At what threshold of effort and expense is it moral to let someone die?
- Is it immoral to purchase entertainment knowing the money spent could save lives?
- It is immoral to hunt animals for sport?
- Is it moral to clone somatic cells to produce a child for infertile couples?
- Is it immoral to be avoidably obese.
- Is it wrong to mislead a business competitor with silence?
- Is every suicide morally wrong?
- Is to spank or not to spank children immoral?
- What kinds of slavery are always immoral?
- Is it wrong to choose who will be removed from a lifeboat incapable of staying afloat without subtracting a passenger?
- Is it wrong to choose which of your children will die from hunger when not having enough food to feed them all?
- Is it immoral not to attempt to resuscitate someone not breathing who has just murdered your child?
- Is it immoral to buy items you suspect are the product of child exploitation?
- Is it immoral to steal to feed starving children?
- Is abortion immoral in every case?
- Is it wrong to use loopholes to avoid taxes unknown to the general public?
- Is downloading music/videos illegally always morally wrong?
- Is it immoral to drive over the speed limit?
- Is it immoral to kill or not to kill a suffering pet?
- Is it immoral to save your drowning child if you could instead save the lives of two children you do not know?
- Is it immoral not to donate a kidney to save your child, or a stranger’s child, or someone who has harmed your child?
- If you have been sentenced to death for a murder, but the judge will permit an innocent volunteer to die in your stead, is it immoral to accept such a substitution?
- You know your child is a homosexual which is deemed worthy of death in the courts of your country. Is it immoral to (or not to) turn your child in?
- Your dying child is in immense pain. Each dose of the only pain killer available reduces both the pain and the life of your child by half. Is it immoral to use the pain killer?
- You have been offered a well-paying job, but discover another less-qualified candidate will become homeless unless they win the position. Is it immoral to take the job?
- Under what circumstances is it immoral to make or break a vow?
After administering a questionnaire on these moral questions, how much agreement do you find among those claiming they have access to an objective moral code? Do their answers converge any more than what you would find among a group of empathetic humans?
You will encounter many “councillors of God”, each claiming their own version of morality they’ve presumably extracted from vague biblical passages and claiming their own moral intuitions are the correct intuitions. Don’t be misled. Would any actual author of morality place his moral law in the hands of such councillors who now propose such vastly disparate notions of moral right and wrong?
Does not the distribution of moral sentiment around the world merely reflect the distribution of emotional dispositions across cultures? A common genetic composition will result in highly convergent emotions (tweaked by culture) which will likely lead to a fairly high degree of convergence of moral values. No notion of a moral law written on our hearts is required as a superfluous explanation of this emotion-based convergence.
Take any group of theists highly familiar with the contents of their holy book, and a group of humans who have simply cultivated empathy in their lives. Which group will exhibit a greater convergence in their treatment of others? Which group would you like to have as neighbors?