The Absurdity of Christian Morality

The tactic of the average apologist today is to equivocate. He will equivocate on “knowledge” by employing the term in what seems to be a conventional context, only to inform you he meant 100% certainty all along. He will equivocate on the notion of morality by asking you whether some abhorrent act is “OK”, hoping you will respond negatively, then accuse you of holding to some objective morality above your emotional abhorrence.

And now I’ve encounter yet another equivocation made by apologists. The word “remarkable”.

I recently and emphatically explained to a Christian apologist that I did not hold that justice was an obligatory moral term since morality was an unsubstantiated domain.

Instead of listening to what I said, he responded with the common apologist script, asserting I had “borrowed” from his worldview, and that I held (“maybe without realizing it”) that justice was an obligatory concept.

This arrogance in telling me what I believe after I clearly stated the opposite is common among apologists. They have canned scripts they must follow, and if you introduce anything they have not encountered, they claim that you must be mistaken since their scripts don’t have you saying that.

It would be nice to live in a world in which I present my own beliefs/arguments, and have them acknowledged rather than have my interlocutor tell me what he thinks I believe since he has a prepared defeater for the belief he wants to hand me.

Now, examine the following syllogism proffered by this apologist attempting to defend obligatory morality.

1. If justice is not obligatory, then references to injustice are no more remarkable than any other descriptor, like the color of the puppy’s fur.”
2. References to justice are more remarkable than other descriptors.
3. Therefore, justice is obligatory.

Really. He believes that injustice can not be remarkable if not tied to obligation.

The fact is, things that are not morally significant remain emotionally significant.

If there is no magic involved in the creation of the universe, the universe remain remarkable.
If there is nothing more to love than chemicals, the experience of love remains remarkable.
If there is no obligation to do what is equitable, there are still the very remarkable reactionary emotions of your community you’ll have to contend with should you behave in inequity.

Chimps presumably do not have the moral obligation to be just and equitable, but they will respond emotionally negatively if they or others are treated unjustly. And you certainly don’t need to conjure up a moral domain on top of the demonstrable emotional domain for injustice to be remarkable among humans.

The term “remarkable” is an emotional term, not a moral term. Joseph Pinner is actually saying that, wherever you find a thing “remarkable” to a degree above the color of a puppy’s fur, there that thing is “obligatory”. This is the depth of the nonsense.

“Remarkable”, as it is conventionally used, refers simply to a degree of emotion. Nothing else. No connection to morality. No connection to obligation. Zilch.

Here the apologist can retreat to his mendacious tactic of equivocation and claim that his use of the term “remarkable” means “morally significant”. But the moment he does so, he knows he has blundered since he clearly understands that you can’t substantiate morality by invoking morality. Nonetheless, many apologists try, hoping you won’t catch their slight-of-tongue.

Take the example of a man who tortures his puppies. The typical Christian believes that is wrong only if their god says it is wrong. The man who tortures puppies will experience my quite significant wrath since I have an emotional fondness for puppies, and hate to see them suffer.

The Christian god actually commanded humans to drive swords into the bellies of infants. According to the Bible, your own emotions and sense of justice are not important. You’ll have to set aside all behaviors you previously found emotionally distasteful, and follow through on what your god says. And these very same Christians will claim they have an “objective” morality that is “self-authenticating” to quote Joseph Pinner. “Self-authenticating”? Are you kidding?

Joseph Pinner is not. In fact, when asked whether he would drive a sword into the belly of an infant if he thought his god was commanding him to, he incredibly responded “In a heart-beat”. This is Christian morality. Compassion must be violated since it is merely an “unremarkable” emotion that does not count in their convoluted moral scheme of blind obedience to their god. “Self-authenticating” evidently means whatever you imagine your god wants. Christians have no standard by which to test whether their god is “just” other than what that god says is just. This bankrupt ideology needs to be exposed for the nonsense and foolishness it is.

In conclusion, if you fail to have the emotions that would prevent you from torturing puppies and thrusting swords into the bellies of children, you have no obligation to refrain from doing so. You’ll simply face the full emotional force of the society you live in. This backlash will not be “unremarkable”.

I have deep compassion for sentient creatures, and a quite hefty degree of “remarkable” wrath reserved for those who would torture puppies or slay children. Most other humans also do. Keep your child-slaying god with his “self-authenticating” morality out of my neighborhood, or reap the consequences.

I believe in emotions. Joseph Pinner takes those emotions that I believe in, emotions that offer a fully predictive explanation of the contours of human behavior, and then pretends those remarkable emotions are evidence of an entirely new realm he would call “objective” morality that is based on the whims of his god, whims that have demonstrably run directly counter to the emotional substrate I hold to and that he has absurdly invoked. Who is borrowing from whose worldview?

So, emotions are the substrate of human behavior. To the degree that they converge, to that degree we can collectively codify behaviors and laws that are not objectively obligatory, but ensure that the bulk of humans operate within their framework by rewarding behavior consistent with collective emotions, and punishing behavior inconsistent with collective emotions. An objectively moral realm that is obligatory remains unsubstantiated, and is most certainly not found in a god who claims to be just while looking on as persons like Joseph slaughter infants upon his command. My emotional condemnation of Joseph’s willingness to slaughter children upon the word of his god carries no objective obligation to restrain himself. It only carries the warning that, should he chose to slaughter children in my presence, he will face my not unremarkable wrath.

And a hint: If you will slay infants upon the word of your alleged god, you might not want to claim to be in possession of some objective morality that is obvious to the rest of humanity.


Update based on Joseph’s comment below: http://philstilwell.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/a-case-study-in-christian-illogic/

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2 thoughts on “The Absurdity of Christian Morality

  1. I’m sympathetic to any blogger who finds himself under the gun to produce thought provoking and charismatic material for his readers on a regular basis. I know from my own limited experience that writing thoughtfully and clearly can be difficult and time consuming, and no matter how careful I think I’m being, there will almost always be some person who misunderstands and distorts my ideas. That may be, to some degree, the very same kind of thing you (who are reading this) are about to witness from me as I address Stilwell’s work; because in reading this recent blog entry by Phil Stilwell, I have determined that several mistakes have been made, and I feel compelled to address them here in the comment section. Mr. Stilwell is a respected opponent, and my desire is to treat his work accordingly. I leave it up to you all, Stilwell’s devoted readership, to decide if I have indeed misunderstood or distorted him.

    In this blog entry, Stilwell begins by suggesting that, in a recent Facebook chat, I equivocated on the meaning of the word ‘remarkable’. You may refer to his work above to see the syllogism I used that contained the word in question, and you may view the entire ongoing discussion by simply requesting to join the ‘Sanctified Thinkers’ group page on Fb. Within that page, you will find this discussion under an article linked by J. Warner Wallace entitled “Why Would a Good God Behave So Badly?”

    To provide a brief background, this argument of mine found its context after Mr. Stilwell mentioned that he does indeed believe in certain objective features of justice, and he gave some examples. He wrote:

    “Chimps seem to get emotionally upset if one of two chimps receives a larger reward for the same amount of work. They simply look at the amount of work, and the size of the reward. This appears to be an objective measure of justice.”

    And

    “…Humans tend to have the same emotions centering around this objective disparity between effort and reward. Most humans call this justice/injustice. And the measure is objective.”

    In response to these alleged examples of objective justice, I sought to argue that if this is all we mean by justice, then nothing objectively meaningful follows. Stilwell acknowledges me with this lucid characterization of my view:

    “Really. He believes that injustice can not be remarkable if not tied to obligation.”

    However, based on the full content of Stilwell’s blogpost, I’m not confident that my point was well understood. Perhaps this is because my point was poorly made, and if so, then I thank Mr. Stilwell for the opportunity to clarify and defend my view.

    Let me begin by addressing the issue of equivocation. After reading my argument proper, I think it’s fair to ask ourselves, is the charge of ‘equivocation’ accurate? Let us analyze the accusation, and see if it checks out.

    What is equivocation in the first place? According to logicalfallacies.info, “the fallacy of equivocation is committed when a term is used in two or more different senses within a single argument…If the words in the premises and the conclusion mean different things, then the premises and the conclusion are about different things, and so the former cannot support the latter. Example:

    (1) The church would like to encourage theism.
    (2) Theism is a medical condition resulting from the excessive consumption of tea.
    Therefore:
    (3) The church ought to distribute tea more freely.”

    So, we may now ask ourselves, what are the two or more senses of the word that I leveraged in my argument about the remarkability of injustice? Perhaps Mr. Stilwell knows, but I must point out, he has not shared them with us. As far as we learn from Stilwell, my syllogism contains the same meaning of the word in question from beginning to end. Maybe it denotes, “emotionally significant,” or maybe it denotes, “morally significant,” but my critic has not even suggested that it has multiple meanings within the argument given, nor has he asked me to clarify or define my use of the word. Based on this observation, one is left to wonder what Stilwell means by his use of the word ‘equivocation’ in this case, and in others.

    Another logical error I detect in Stilwell’s assessment of my argument is found in this paragraph:

    “…Joseph Pinner is actually saying that, wherever you find a thing ‘remarkable’ to a degree above the color of a puppy’s fur, there that thing is ‘obligatory’. This is the depth of the nonsense.”

    This is subtle. In this version, notice that Stilwell has removed the word ‘justice’ completely. Not surprisingly, this distortion has the effect of changing the meaning of my argument. After all, the argument is about justice and it’s objective importance (or as I put it univocally, it’s ‘remarkability’). Perhaps there are other qualities that could bestow objective importance to other kinds of things, but those other things are not part of this argument. The purpose of this argument is to underscore the only thing that could make justice objectively significant above other mundane descriptors (like the color of a puppy’s fur): the obligation of it.

    Curiously, for all Stilwell’s push-back, he has not presented any valid reason to doubt my conclusion. Perhaps my syllogism really is fallacious or deficient in some way, but we haven’t yet learned from my critic how.

    I regret to report that for the remaining text of his blog, Stilwell avoids addressing my objective claims about injustice entirely, and instead writes extensively about subjective human emotion. But surely this is an odd way to rebut me. Does Stilwell think I am arguing that injustice does not bring about strong emotion? If it weren’t for his lucid characterization of my argument earlier, I might suspect misunderstanding. However, since I have good reason to think Stilwell does follow my syllogism correctly, I rather see this autobiographical detour as a fine example of red herring. Let us examine several of Mr. Stilwell’s statements and consider their implications:

    “In conclusion, if you fail to have the emotions that would prevent you from torturing puppies and thrusting swords into the bellies of children, you have no obligation to refrain from doing so. You’ll simply face the full emotional force of the society you live in. This backlash will not be ‘unremarkable’.

    I have deep compassion for sentient creatures, and a quite hefty degree of “remarkable” wrath reserved for those who would torture puppies or slay children. Most other humans also do. Keep your child-slaying god with his “self-authenticating” morality out of my neighborhood, or reap the consequences.”

    “My emotional condemnation of Joseph’s willingness to slaughter children upon the word of his god carries no objective obligation to restrain himself. It only carries the warning that, should he chose to slaughter children in my presence, he will face my not unremarkable wrath.”

    What’s so bizarre about these statements is that they come from a person who believes emphatically that these emotions tell us nothing about the way the world actually is. Mr. Stilwell has been as clear as he can that he denies the existence of real moral prohibition. Rather, according to his view, bare irrational emotion is all that exists to guide human behavior. What, then, are we to make of Stilwell’s resolution to punish those who’s emotions differ from his? It would seem that Stilwell has gotten rid of God as the ground for moral obligation, and replaced him with Phil Stilwell.

    When a man must borrow something from someone else, it is only because he does not have that something of his own. When I suggest to Mr. Stilwell that he’s borrowing from my worldview, it is only because he has told me his does not contain the thing he is now using: moral obligation. So I do not mean to contradict him; rather I mean to point out that he has contradicted himself. Moral obligation is implicit in Stilwell’s view of justice (despite his explicit insistence to the contrary), even if its only statute is to avoid violating his personal emotions.

  2. […] another blog post, I included this syllogism, and demonstrated that Joseph was intentionally equivocating on the word […]

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