A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

God and Morality

Atheist Ethicist raises an interesting idea: "Even if there were a God the moral implications would be nothing more than to note that the moral universe is larger by one person – a person who has no more rights than any other person

"– a person who counts as one person in all moral calculations – a person that is good to the degree that he has desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and evil to the degree that he has desires that tend to thwart other desires."

My response: I'd want to use the word interest over desire. Our desires may not always be fitting to what is in our best interest or others. So using the latter word can give us the chance to speak of the good even if we are not always in a position to recognize it as such.

I'm a theist and I was wondering what you thought of this idea? God is not an extra person with his or her own interests, desires, etc. But God is simply the name for the most comprehensive fulfillment of all interests, etc to the degree that they can cohere.

I'd rather not identify God as some separate entity apart from the good. The good apart from God is not relevant to morality. God as the good makes God the whole point (not the belief in God but the ideal behind the belief; ie the most complete maximization of good)


At 7:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, belief in God does not automatically imply morality. God could be a savage beast who demands immorality. Ones perception of God is an anthropomorphic projection of ones consciousness (in social context.) God may be one's experience of being absorbed in the larger society (Durkheim) and therefore the power experienced is that of the unity of the whole. God may be experienced as a projection of one's will to freedom or of ones will to power, or God may be the projection of authority and may enslave the senses with fear or love (Feurbach...)Ones own feelings about the ontological essence of being determines ones moral perspective.

At 5:40 PM , Blogger Aggiejedimaster said...

I think that God's status as a "higher" being is what grants him (or the idea of him, etc.) the power to impact individual's personal morality in such a powerful way. If God were merely another person, then he wouldn't really make an impact on universal morality. But if God does exist, then, depending on what he is, he has the power to influence and perhaps even dictate universal morality.

At 10:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, by our definition of God we think of one that is all powerful. Morality is determined by the one who determines everything. Some would say, however, that this is a culturally determined understanding of God, it is not innate or - as Anselm put it, "apriori" (as in we have that knowledge of the nature of the absolute prior to experiencing it.) Not many people would believe that God is apriori, most believe it is aposteriori (based on concepts we have experienced...)
For example, in some tribal cultures, God is not all powerful, just a lot more powerful. In some tribal myths, you can if you are very tricky outsmart God. For example, God might be coming to kill your Son, but if you dress him up as a girl you might trick God and save your Son.
So, how is our understanding of God's nature made, why do we think of God as all powerful, or the concept of God as all powerful? One could say, from the Bible. But how did the Bible writers get that idea? I could suggest, due to the experience of their own limitations, their is always a power greater than themselves. Anthroplogists tend to believe that God was created as a security from the mountains, volcanoes etc...El, the oldest name of the Hebrew God means high referring to the mountains, God is an expression or an animation of power...

This is just a suggestion, but we experience our finitude and a God sized hole because the experience of being complete must be deep in our subconscious. Where does our hunger for justice, for morality come from? Maybe from God? Maybe this hunger for justice, for completion is the best proof of God?

At 3:34 PM , Blogger Harris said...

Dwight - Just found your blog doing a google search for the lyrics to "Restless Weaver". R U still a student? If so, I hope you've met Rev Dr William Burl (Bill) Kincaid III. He joined faculty in Fall of 2008. Good friend of mine. I'll check back in with you from time to time. Campbellites need all the support they can get these days!

At 9:23 PM , Blogger The Atheist Missionary said...

Check out www.atheistmissionary.com for a thought provoking mind experiment.

At 11:10 PM , Blogger Marleen said...

Dwight, I think you're really getting close to something big here. For me, God is not so much the name for a diety or "a person" as such, but a name we have for certain mysterious processes and natures in which I and all "creation" is involved, tapped into. In my mind the word "God" is often what I say to mean "the life force," and/or the connective force between all life, and/or the belief in the superioirty of life-affirming ways of being (or morality). Saying that this "force" would have personhood seems to me as absurd as saying that water should have personhood. I don't mean that God, or water for that matter, shouldn't be honored, respected, sustained, beloved, etc., but humans seem to veer dangerously toward humanizing "God," a word that is used to describe a concept that is at its essence indescribable, inhuman, yet almost universally felt by all. I guess all this to reiterate that I think myself and many other progressive Christians are abandoning "God" the diety for "God" the mystery.

At 12:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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