Friday, August 14, 2009

Arguments for god...kind of (Part 2) - The Kantian Moral Argument

Besides the comment 'what if you are wrong' the next most common response to atheism is 'then why are you good?'. This is a laymen version of a moral argument, a class of god arguments that claim morality comes from god and hence god must exist.
The Kantian moral argument, named for Immanual Kant, argues that morality is only rational if there is a god, and since people are moral and rational there must be a god!

The Kant argument is as follows:
  1. Moral behavior is rational.
  2. Morality behavior is only rational if justice will be done.
  3. Justice will only be done if God exists.
  1. God exists.
There are some serious issues with this argument but I want to consider each of them in parts.

Moral behavior is only rational if justice will be done.

Rationality must be considered in relation to goals.
Is it rational to step in front of a bus?
Is it rational to step in front of a bus if you are trying to save a child?
without the goal the rationality of the action is in question. with the goal the rationality is clear. If the goal of your morals is to treat others with respect and courtesy and receive the same in kind then it is absolutely rational to behave morally, irrespective of if a god exists to enforce pain on those who reject that behavior themselves.

A moral code need not be perfect or always working, it only needs to work well enough to insure propagation of the moral code within the society it exists in.
All societies have a social norm that states that murder unrestrained is bad, the reason for this is simple. Societies which allow for unrestrained murder fail to propagate and die out.
Societies which have concepts of self ownership also have rules about theft. Even in cultures without a concept of self ownership there is the concept of communal ownership and the rights of the community over the individuals need. these moral codes develop because of the communities needs and previous cultural codes and mores.

Justice will only be done if God exists.

Notice the inherent argument from consequence in this statement. The statement is a blatant attempt to convince the listener that without god, or at least the belief in god, that morality will break down. but the question becomes, why hasn't it then? There are plenty of nonbelievers, and even non-believing majority countries. why are these countries still standing?
Worse then this though is the subtle implication in this whole argument. the implied consequence of 'without my god I would steal, rape, and murder' a claim more then one theist has actually made. This shows that the person making the argument is only as moral as the consequences require them to be. Without big daddy standing over them, without a stick they would break everyones toys.

That is not morality.

There are other issues with this argument, mainly the implied postulates which are either incorrect in part, unlikely, or false entirely.

Implied postulates:
  • There is an objective moral code.
  • Everyone knows what this moral code is.
  • This god is of religion X, of type Z.
The implication of an objective moral code is required because if there is no objective moral code, then god can't give it to us. There are a few problems with an objective moral code. I will touch on that in a later post.

The second implied postulate is worse then all of the rest because simple observation will show that not everyone has the same moral code, and even worse, that some people are physically and psychologically unable to know some of these moral codes. It is literally imposable for someone who is a psychopath by the clinical definition to have a conscious, they can pretend and act like everyone else, but they truly can not comprehend emotionally and viscerally why moral behavior is good.

Lastly, this argument even if it was correct says nothing about which god, or what this moral code is! Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

The only thing this would say is that some god, somewhere, of some type, with some properties of some type, will punish people for not following some moral code this god has provided. None of this tells you which moral codes are from humans and which from the god, none of this tells you if the god in question is informed before it makes said decision, etc etc.

If you accept the implied components then, sure it works to support your god....but wasn't the point supposed to be to convince ME?

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