Chapter 1: Introduction
Seek and you shall find.
We live according to values and beliefs concerning ideas that we might never fully understand. Yet, we still hold that there is some type of truth out there, be it singular or plural in nature. Regardless of what rank or class we are, humans are naturally curious. That inquisitiveness makes everyone natural philosophers whether they want to admit it or not. Introspective, existential query is found in conversations that occur every second of every day. “Why is he so mean?” “He should have left her a while ago, all she does is use him.” “I would never do that.” So on and so forth. There is an ought in every one of these very general statements and questions. Prescriptive issues remain whether it regards the person who experiences mundane cruelty from his peers, prompting questions regarding the evilness of the human heart. The afflicted person thinks that humans ought to treat each other with kindness, whatever that kindness might be. The ought hangs over the head of the man who looks in disgust as he sees his best friend stay with a woman who only cares about the man’s money. The disgusted person believes that people ought to be together because they love each other. The ought pricks the conscience of the person who said that he would never stoop so low as to do what his neighbors do. He believes that we ought to conduct ourselves with honor.
Each of these bits of conversation lead to more basic questions that can be clearly identified as philosophical. Do human rights exist? Does love exist? Does honor exist? If these things exist, then what are their natures? We can now see how these deep questions among many others like them are not independent of our day-to-day lives. We live every moment according to a series of values and beliefs. These things are founded in a philosophical worldview that is based upon scanty or plentiful evidence in which we subsequently put our faith.
To claim that one worldview is true or false obviously cannot be done very lightly. This investigation involves many ideas which get convoluted by emotions and faulty logic. What might be convincing to some seems ridiculous to others. Within these arguments there is something that both sides are not recognizing, or else the people arguing would quickly resolve the dispute because both would be satisfied by the logic of one argument or would come to recognize that both are flawed in some way.
The goal here in discovering and confirming worldviews is not however to be the most objective individual. That is a fool’s errand. People evaluate other perspectives with tools that already exist in their own worldview. These tools might consist of logical thinking, emotional pleading, or empirical observation. The best a truth-seeker can do is weigh one view against the other and ascertain which one is more reasonable and probable than the other based on evidence that is either agreed upon by both sides or not. After doing that, it is necessary to try to recognize why one thinks the way one does, that is, to identify your own biases. To have a bias is not a bad thing, however, when it comes to philosophy. Everyone has one. One must observe one’s own thought process only in order to discover possible flaws in that thought process. To confirm something with absolute certainty is not necessary. To do this one must be in all places and all points in time at the same time and know all things so as not to miss out on some possible counter argument to one’s own worldview. To do this would mean to be God. Since we are not gods and have only finite lifespans in which to work, we cannot be held to a god’s standard of discerning certain truth. We must only determine what worldview is more reasonable than the other. If we can get to the point of an apparent dichotomy that has one option, which seems to be absolutely impossible according to all human thinking, then we have achieved the best we can. We can happily choose the counter worldview to this impossible option in the dichotomy and be satisfied that we have discovered truth for all intents and purposes. To question further can be helpful and intellectually healthy. But, we are not required, nor is it feasible, to identify something as absolutely true independent of all worldviews.
Nothing is free from examination. No worldview is the standard. There is no such thing as non-belief. The rejection of one belief is the assertion of another. Neither side has the sole burden of proof. To build upon a base of non-belief, one must compile evidence and reason conclusions from it.
Atheism and theism are both views with many subcategories, but they both claim something. One: Nature is the universe or multi-verse and that is all there is; there is nothing independent thereof. It began at some point in the past or never began at all. The other: The universe is not all that there is. There are one or more things termed deities that exist independent of the universe making them supernatural or “above nature.” Without speaking of any subcategories of theism, these entities are nondescript, but it or they caused the universe wherein we live.
Proponents of atheism cannot claim that they do not have to argue their position just as well as theists cannot simply say, “Look around you, deal with the proof.” Some sort of holistic reason must be presented in order to insist one perspective be true instead of the other.
Science is no different. It does not exist outside of philosophy. It is very much a philosophical perspective. It is only within the past few centuries that this philosophy has been heavily developed. Science was, after all, termed natural philosophy in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Science, of course, follows the principal of empiricism. Truth is derived through observation of the universe. This observation is considered more reliable if a scientist can repeat something or can make an accurate prediction based upon theoretical knowledge. The statement that there is no truth outside of empirical observation is what is termed empiricism, or, more likely, scientism. It is a claim to absolute truth because it leaves no possibility for any other method of arriving at truth. These types of claims are at the heart of every worldview and can almost never be presented in such a way that is convincing to everyone. They cannot be universally convincing because there is nothing upon which they are based. One cannot insist that the truth claims exist within a system of arguments that will eventually prove themselves by means of simple logical thinking. These statements are the lynch pins for the entire system. These absolute truth claims require faith.
When one speaks of faith, many wrong-headed ideas come to mind which is very tragic and mostly due to attitudes of writers of the “Enlightenment.” Faith is not something that has nothing to do with knowledge, verification, and reason. Faith is the very thing that makes these others possible. One cannot have knowledge without evidence lest it be mere speculation. Knowledge is the summation and reasoned conclusion from this evidence. Knowledge is the explanation of how this evidence fits in and hopefully supports a systematized view of the universe. When one picks apart evidence and puts together a case for a worldview, this evidence, if it is any good, can be used by truth-seekers of other worldviews. This availability of evidence to multiple sides of a question means that there is some uncertainty about how the evidence is to be interpreted, lest the argument for another side be eventually made that would be air-tight for all people honestly interested in truth. Because there is this sizable wiggle-room for a solid conclusion, faith is required. It is the lid on the jar of evidence that allows someone to believe confidently that they have ascertained truth. Faith is simply putting trust in evidence and in one’s reasoning for a systematized conclusion from that evidence. When making friends, one learns a great deal about a person. This is the evidence-gathering stage. Based upon this information, one can determine whether or not this is a good or bad person who can be trusted. It is faith, therefore, that allows a person to say assuredly that they now know something.
It might be unclear what I am attempting to do in discussing methods of obtaining truth. Am I speaking of only philosophical techniques? No, I mentioned these things in the introduction because I want to have my reader be in a similar mindset as I am when I consider what other people argue. I never want to balk at what people say despite how intellectually insensitive. Although, I admit at times I succumb to such vain, emotional outbursts. I seriously want to know how the universe and our existence therein ought to be viewed. No one likes to live in darkness unless it appeals greatly to certain emotional pressures. Everyone wants to know the truth. If I discover that my position is wholly wrong and even harmful, I would be appalled. If I led someone down this unscrupulous path, I would hate myself for it. I am truly sorry for pervading any possibly untrue ideas. Take what I say as you would anyone else. Try to find the reason in it, if there is none, disregard it.
I simply aim to lay down reasons why you should believe that the Christian God, Yahweh, exists and loves you greatly, and hopefully why you should respond to this possible relationship as it could be the most important decision in your life. My particular view of God will become evident as you read. There are many characteristics that I think are untrue about Yahweh (I use this name to distinguish him from other gods of other religions easily.) that our culture and society believe when they imagine what Christianity is.
Ask and it will be given to you.
When one asserts that something exists, it is normally a good idea to start at the basics—the beginning. The prevailing view of origin among moderners is termed casually as the Big Bang Theory: although all the adjectives of this term are misleading, because if the theory is true it was not big as it started out as a singularity, or an infinitesimally small point. There was no bang because there was no space wherein sound waves could propagate. The term is besides the point. Scientific concepts are not the main focus of this discussion because if some of the following basic philosophical ideas are true the science is irrelevant.
What one must consider is simple metaphysics: that is, the nature of things outside direct observation. Metaphysics deals with what is considered logical or not in certain situations.
The beginning is a loaded way of talking about…well…the beginning. Many have believed throughout time that there was never a beginning. The universe has always been; we are simply existing in an either an infinitely-long string of events or in a circle of events that are all relative to each other. In contrast to this perspective, the general view of the nature of time holds that once the “past” has occurred it cannot be recalled or revisited. It is gone and can never be re-entered. The past does not exist anymore. The future does not exist either. Each and every moment is independent of the other, but every moment can add up with the ones connecting to it much in the same way that an infinite amount of particles (given enough theoretical reduction) add up to make a subatomic constituent.
On the second view of time, this string of events is infinitely large, meaning all moments are happening simultaneously. Entering into other periods of time would be theoretically possible (not to speak of the methods of doing so) because they actually exist while the “present” is occurring. They exist, however, in other dimensions somehow. There would be no series of events in this view. Trying to find the beginning would as fruitless as trying to see where a circle begins.
I describe this second view nebulously for a reason. There are very few causes that can be logically connected to each other: that is, the human thinking process that exists in the natural world cannot logically conceive of something that is circular in causality. We think in lines. One event leads to another in a chain. There is a reason for that. Logic consists of this way of thinking. There must be no space between each cause or explanation, lest one provoke the infamous endless questioning of a child, “Why?” Eventually, the explanations will run out because one will have reached the breach in the chain. The last why will go unanswered and will most likely be followed by some facetious response.
The circular view of time goes against all reasoning because it breaks the means of explaining anything. Going with the same principal of accepting the most reasonable option as truth by means of the most evidence, this circular theory of time must be left by the wayside. There is no evidence for it. There are plenty of speculations—that is for sure. But, how could something like time, which seems to simply be the term we use to describe the way natural things constantly change, exist in a plurality and simultaneously? Time does not actually exist in itself. It is neither immaterial or material. Some physicists would like to posit that it is actually something, but they seem to be trying to force characteristics on something that is simply a description.
When we notice matter decaying, dissolving, or diffusing in various ways, we tend to say that they are all results of time elapsing, but in fact we all know time is not doing anything. These material things are just existing and changing. If nothing changed, then how would we measure time? If every atom stopped reacting with others around it, if all electrons suddenly stopped going around their nuclei, if every single possible interaction ceased creating a perfectly static universe then how would anyone notice time, assuming the observers were independent of this static condition? Things would exist in a timeless state because they would be immutable. This theory of a descriptive version of time is why it is incompatible with reason to hypothesize that there are other events happening within our own time-frame in this natural world of ours. Time is not some string of reality in which things happen in. Time is just change and if there is not matter or energy to change, there is no time. Unless there are other universes that all contain mutable matter and energy, there is only one time-line—the present.
You might want to step in and pose a rather wolfish question, “But, surely you must know that science indicates that in order for this universe to reasonably exist in all its grandeur and perfectly placed details and laws, statistically, there must be an incalculable number other universes that contain all the other possible ways in which a universe can exist?” Thus enters the multi-verse. The curious thing about the multi-verse is that if science is supposed to be an enterprise, which discounts all things unless they can be empirically tested and observed, then why has it come to a point now that it must theorize something that can never, no matter what tier of technology we reach in the future, be observed and tested? That is the simple fact. If there is such a thing as the multi-verse it is even more unreachable than God due to it being a natural entity without intelligence that exists beyond the bounds of our dimension. It cannot be contacted physically. Since there would be no spiritual realm, that would also remain out of the question.
The multi-verse cannot, therefore, make the circular theory of time work if one wants to remain reasonable. When you make an argument, you cannot simply posit a showstopper like the multi-verse that has no way of being tested or understood, because nothing is known about it. Because it cannot be contacted , there is no way of inquiring either. God might also be perceived as a showstopper to the ill-equipped. God is, however, not, because according to any theory about him, her, it, whichever you prefer at this point, God can be contacted either spiritually or physically or both. There are, therefore, ways in our realm of existence to ascertain information about this deity. If this information proves to be faulty or illogical then the whole deity concept may be discarded. At least it has the option of being discarded. The multi-verse could just exist perpetually as an idea that can be neither confirmed or rejected. What use is such an idea? Ideas that cannot be analyzed are just raw material that is, without proper craftsmanship, useless. No truth can be derived from such material.
So, why make such a fuss about this whole time issue? Well, my most perceptible reader, if time is linear and only existing in the “present,” and is simply a description of mutable matter then the Big Bang, as it is conventionally understood (materialistically), is logically impossible. The Big Bang outlines a natural process whereby nature itself came about and eventually ended up in its current state. There is a definable beginning. There is a beginning, in this view, because scientists use information about the current condition of the universe, including its current rate of expansion, and extrapolate (following the principle of uniformitarianism, which states that the present is the key to the past) into the past to arrive at a single point of origin. Beyond that singularity, much like the theoretical point on a sheet of graph paper that supposedly has no dimensions, there is a state of nothingness from which it somehow emerged. The singularity had to come from this nothingness because it cannot just exist there for an eternity then magically start expanding for no apparent reason. An eternally static condition that begins to change would lead to the problem outlined at the beginning of this section. There would be an infinite series of events which this singularity would have to traverse in order for it to start expanding and begin our conventional measure of time derived through extrapolation of the expansion rate. The singularity would never be able to start expanding because it would never be able to make it through this infinite series simply due to the nature of infinity. The singularity would, thus, have to emerge from nothingness in a fluid and definable number of events and then start expanding. There would be no state in which the singularity could just stop changing lest it prevent the situation in which it would be able to produce the change needed to start the expansion. If there are atoms in this singularity, then the atoms would have to be reacting the whole time. The electrons would have to be moving or whatever makeup the atoms would require in that condition of extreme heat in order for some minute change to occur that would eventually set off the expansion of the universe and the creation of hydrogen and other elements. When these particles are changing, time is elapsing thus forcing the problem of the infinite series upon the singularity. Without the particles moving or interacting, there can never be an expansion. If they are moving, then the expansion would have to happen in a definite amount of time in order to avoid the problem of infinity. The only option would be for this natural process to occur in a definite amount of time. Nothingness must be the origin of everything.
But surely that makes no sense, right? Out of nothing, nothing comes. Everyone knows that. Apparently, atheism insists that statement to be wrong. There appears to be no break in my reasoning. If the singularity cannot exist forever and then initiate the start of the universe, then it too must have a beginning. Its beginning would have to be either nothingness or a singularity that is somehow smaller–if that were possible to imagine; but, seeing as a point already has no dimensions, that option is moot.
The realm of nothing is even worse for scientists than the multi-verse. Nothingness is not only impossible to observe and test, but also, even in its theoretical form, contains no matter or energy or else it would not be called nothing. If there is not a state of absolute nothingness: no atoms, no photons, no particles, no quarks, no energy, not anything, then there is in fact already a universe or a singularity and the beginning is already done and over with. A regular, natural world is existing. By world, I mean existence in general. We have already dealt with the concept of an eternally-existing, natural realm quite thoroughly so I shall not delve into the problem of that any further.
Nothing yields absolutely nothing for anyone discussing it—be it theist or atheist. It is another showstopper. I see no way of explaining how our world could be here naturally. A materialist—one who asserts that the universe in its natural, empirically observable form is all there is—must look upon our existence as logically contradictory. So, how are we here? Some clever person might say that we are not here. I do not know why anyone would want to think that. I suppose one could say that it is all a ruse. We do not exist. I could say facetiously, “Well then, I will not deal with your argument, you do not exist.” One might see that as dodging the issue. But, I elect to hold to my method of determining truth. One must not prove something independent of all worldviews in order for it to be truth. As long as it is at least more reasonable than its counterparts, something can be considered truth for a finite and ignorant individual like myself. It does not seem reasonable that the world, in which I live, does not exist. There is no evidence to deny my existence—only the wildest speculations. All my empirical, metaphysical, spiritual, and emotional evidence points to my existence being exceedingly reasonable. So, excuse me if I take it to be a truism. Other than that, I could appeal to the Cartesian argument for self-existence based on the nature of cognizance. His argument can be described thus: If I were to doubt all sensory experience there would still be the person who doubts them, namely, myself. Even If I imagine that my thoughts are not mine and that I am, in fact, being deceived by some external entity who gives me these thoughts, there is still this person that I recognize as myself who is being deceived. Whatever way you go about it, it seems certain that at least I have to exist. If I exist, I can say that I experience other minds around me. These minds contain things that I don’t understand sometimes. They also contain many things that conflict with what I think. Hence, it seems reasonable that there exists other minds as well. All of these minds are led to belief in some common bases about existence. Because they tend to agree about the existence of the external world, my own intuition that it exists is made more robust and less susceptible to any objections to it. I do exist. But, how? As stated before, naturally, this cannot work. When I say naturally, I mean by natural, physical means within the universe. At this point, I am forced—literally forced–to tread unsure grounds. If something cannot exist because of a natural cause then there must be something besides nature—supernatural “above nature.” I do not know what this supernatural realm is capable of, but I believe it could be the solution to the quandary created by an infinite series of events in the natural world. When I say supernatural I am not describing something specific which popular opinion might suggest. I merely mean anything beyond nature: independent of our natural universe and its physical laws. By this definition, I understand that the multi-verse can be understood as supernatural. The multi-verse, however, contains its own laws and matter that are natural within its own plane of existence. Nothingness is not supernatural because nothingness has no properties, therefore it cannot be described as anything else other than nothing. The supernatural realm is in another category all on its own. Matter and energy does not seem to exist within it. This would make time impossible. Maybe there is another version of time to measure the changes of the substances of the supernatural world, I do not know. I do know, however, that the supernatural is necessary to explain how I could logically exist. Thus, I must take the option that is open for me. There are possibly supernatural means whereby our natural universe could be created in a logical manner, but there is certainly no possible way whereby our natural universe could create itself because of the problem of having to traverse an infinite series of events and because one cannot use some natural thing to create that selfsame natural thing if it did not exist prior: the old problem of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Just because the supernatural is necessary does not mean that it can be utilized as an easy escape in an argument. The great thing about the supernatural–unlike the multi-verse and nothingness–is that it can be studied and contacted. The path whereby one does this is of course though religion and theology. Those words might seem taboo to the rational person, but they are now required fields of study if one hopes to explain this universe in a logical way. Some might wonder why the universe cannot exist inexplicably if God can. With either atheism or theism, we have two options: an eternal, natural world, or an eternal, supernatural world with a temporary natural world that was created by the supernatural one. This is an example of a dichotomy which I described earlier. The naturalistic option has been shown through the arguments involving an infinite series and a linear view of time to be impossible. Nevertheless, atheism might still insist that it is more reasonable to have an inexplicable natural world than to appeal to an unknown supernatural world. We know that it would be a logical contradiction to have something in the natural world happen without cause, even if we include findings of quantum mechanics. People might imagine that some interpretations of quantum mechanics might teach that there are random fluctuations between energy and particles of matter with seemingly no cause. Since there is no intelligence in the mechanistic, materialistic universe, every event would have to result from external stimuli. The external stimuli have to remain within the natural world because stimuli cannot exist in nothingness. Therefore, there has to be a naturalistic cause for the apparent random fluctuation. There are no other options for the materialist in positing a source for stimuli. Nonetheless, we know that by the mere fact that we exist that if materialism were true then the stimulus for the fluctuation which created our universe would have to be within the created universe, meaning that there would be a contradiction. We cannot accept what we know to be a contradiction (naturalistic beginnings from nothingness), but we can accept a situation (existence of a supernatural realm), in which the contradiction (the beginning of the universe) is no longer a known contradiction, because the characteristics (capabilities of the supernatural) of that situation (existence of a supernatural realm) are not known, if we know that the certainty of our existence demands that this contradiction (the beginning of the universe) be dealt with. In other words, we do know the capabilities of the natural world, but we do not know the capabilities of the supernatural world. We exist. It is more reasonable to accept a possible contradiction than to accept a certain contradiction if we are forced to because our existence demands it. The supernatural just might be able to have been existing eternally (it is not constrained by time because it consists of no mutable matter or energy), but we know the natural world cannot have. We are forced to say the supernatural realm exists inexplicably.
Before we proceed with this study of the characteristics and capabilities of the supernatural and God, I would like to point out that I have been using logic throughout this whole process and argument. I do not believe that logic exists as some sort of independent entity, it is like time—only a way of describing how things change and behave. Logic only describes what is occurring metaphysically inside our minds. Logic is the chain-like way of thinking as discussed earlier. One cannot try to confirm logic because logic would be required in the process. It is circular reasoning. Logic is the one thing in this world that we cannot attempt to try and prove because we cannot conceive of another way of thinking to try to do this. And if we could, we would have to prove that way of thinking is also correct: leading to an infinite regress. We must take logic as we have it. But, I repeat, it is not something that actually exists in and of itself. There is no Platonic form which logic in our world is representing. Logic is just an idea describing a natural or supernatural process—thinking.
Some would call ethics more important than all other intellectual disciplines. What could be more godlike than being able to decide for oneself what is right and what is wrong? Freedom is one of those ideals that humans have a penchant fighting to the death for. And ethical freedom is the highest development of independence. Yet, through ultimate freedom a remarkable paradox ensues.
Post-modernism is a strange worldview indeed. It claims truth, and then denies it. There are several subsets of it. The main idea behind it, however, is quite simple. In our modern culture, we encounter a great pluralism of beliefs and traditions. Therefore, would it not be extremely obtuse to deny all of them and posit one’s own absolute truth? Because many intellectuals strive to be, or at least be perceived to be humble, they instantly feel the need to shirk the platform of claiming absolute truth. Post-modernism comes to the rescue. Since it would be arrogant to deny everyone’s worldview while maintaining one’s own, then why not say that they are all true? Everyone looks at the world through a certain perspective anyways. Is not the way in which they see things an all-encompassing reality? Each person, thus, lives in his own truth. Another truth independent of a person becomes absurd. Even if it exists, it is impossible to grasp it without one’s perspectives and interpretations. In the end that absolute truth becomes annexed into a personal truth, or relative truth.
The problem with this whole idea is that it is of course an absolutist philosophical way of interacting with the world. Saying there is no absolute truth just means: It is an absolute truth that there is none. While some might be satisfied with this statement, it is far more reasonable to just analyze each point of view than just submitting and claiming that they are all true for their own believers.
So why bring up post-modernism? It is unfortunately how many modern people essentially view ethics nowadays. It’s all relative—except for those really heinous things like genocide. In order to actually have a true view of ethics it must permeate throughout one’s entire life not just in severe situations. One cannot, therefore, go around and say that it’s perfectly fine to have sex with anyone, rejecting an “obsolete” ethical system; then use that same system to condemn the Stalins of the world. Simply creating a new perimeter of morals to suite the current culture is not enough. In such an artificial ethical system, why is something actually right or wrong? One can simply say murder is wrong according to the tastes of modern enlightened people, but why? There is no absolute reason. In order for there to be actual moral responsibility, and not mere voting and following preferences–no matter how ingrained in the human character– there must be a universal-wide law. There must be things that are wrong and have always been wrong in every mind and point of existence—no exceptions.
Yet, many people that do not ascribe to a particular moral system and would not go so far as to call themselves atheists, but, notwithstanding, assert that ethics is relatively independent of religion. Something can be wrong not only in one culture but objectively wrong for everyone without even appealing to God or his prerogatives . Determining the particulars of what is objectively wrong is another matter. Let us look at whether it is even possible that anything can be objectively wrong without the existence of anything supernatural. What is necessary to be able to justifiably condemn something? A standard is one thing. This standard has to be inherently unjustifiable, lest we encounter an infinite regress of justification. Nonetheless, this standard cannot be blatantly arbitrary. A good stopping point in the regress would be one that is sufficiently unified with other philosophical bases for the existence of the universe and operation of free will and such. The standard must naturally fit into a universal theory that includes answers to these other questions.
Many ethicists claim that discerning truth about morality is the same as discerning the truth about a physics equation. They say this because philosophers assess truth by means of arguments. These arguments are composed of premises and conclusions. Premises are statements that are assertions that require sub-arguments, truisms, or statements that logically follow from previous premises. Eventually the conclusion, which is what one is trying to prove, will emerge from these premises. To prevent the inherent vagueness of conventional language, philosophers will employ a logical language composed of letters and symbols. To determine whether the argument is valid or not (whether it is impossible for all the premises to be true and the conclusion not true or not), philosophers will analyze not only what the logical symbols represent, but also the structure of the sentence. One can determine whether something logically follows from something else if represented in this special language just by the way the sentence is set up. Deep analyzation is not even required at this stage.
Where analyzation is required is determining whether premises are actually true. One can have a valid argument with all false premises as long as the conclusion follows. An argument represents what could be truth when it is identified as sound: all the premises are true and the whole argument is valid. Why am I telling you this? When ethicists say that they know whether something is objectively wrong, they often construct their arguments based off the premise that goodness is prudence. What is prudent for human flourishing is good. If it is good then we are morally obliged to abstain from something that would negatively affect human flourishing or morally obliged to act on something that would positively affect human flourishing.
Why is human flourishing good? It is good if we care about pleasure, reproduction, and legacy, but is human flourishing objectively good? What if I decide not to care about these things? How can I be rightly condemned? Why should I care? Pleasure can be reduced to neurotransmitters. Reproduction to two genomes being mixed, creating a slightly new one in a zygote. Legacy to words in a book or atoms in a statue or words on lips. There was of course, in the atheistic view, a time when humans did not exist. What was good then? Why should what enables our species to thrive be considered obligatory to follow?
Other atheistic, ethical systems base intrinsic worth on the history and the effort necessary to create something or through sacred designation. If it took a great deal of effort to construct pyramids, then bombing them can be rightly condemned as this action would be disrespecting this principle. If a flag is designated to represent some nation then a patriot would be rightly horrified to witness the desecration of that flag. What about cultures that have taken a great deal of time and human involvement to develop habits like misogyny which Western people have a penchant for condemning? Would the destruction of this culture—in itself a supposed disrespect to something that has intrinsic worth—be justified in order to introduce ideas that are considered right in the eyes of Westerners? Clearly people start with their own cultural mores as a basis, their own individual ideas, or a universal standard when they assess justice. To just posit human flourishing or intrinsic value through history, effort, or sacred designation as synonymous with the universal standard simply does not work. They only push the question a step back. Instead of asking why it is morally wrong to murder, one must ask why is it morally right for humans to flourish. For the vast majority of people that do not tend to delve into tricky matters of the inner-working of their beliefs, human flourishing seems to be self-evident that it is good. Is it just because you are a human that you have this tendency? If one human being had to the capability to single-handedly launch all the nuclear weapons on earth and escape onto a space shuttle and live for a period of time in a space station by himself till the last remaining human died of radiation sickness or other conditions, he would then be the sole human remaining. Who is around to judge his act as wrong? Everyone that might have disagreed is dead. Only his worldview remains to represent humanity. If you wish to condemn his act as wrong you must posit that morality is based on something independent of humans and their goals of thriving.
One might wonder naturally what objective morality might look like since we all seem to be inclined to it in some degree. Let us again look at what it means to be objective and then examine what moral systems could provide that. The relationship between humans and objective morality is similar to our relationship to the material world. Assuming immaterialistic theories coming out of conclusions of quantum physics are wrong, atoms and their components exist prior to being being observed in some form, the universe exists before and outside of human or any other type of observation. Our perceptions of it differ ever so slightly due to the composition of our bodies, the environment surrounding them, and our actions; yet, there exists an actual world beyond us that is of a singular nature. There are multiple ways to perceive it, but in the end there is only one subject, the universe, whereupon we base our observations. Solipsists might object to this view, since they would believe that only their mind exists and that everything else is an illusion, but since barely anyone believes this, it seems misguided to spend time refuting it as it is not within the scope of my goal for this work. I would, however, if approached by someone who genuinely had this worldview , happily discuss why I think it to be extremely unreasonable and improbable. Going beyond this minor exception, the vast majority of my audience believes in the external world. Morality, if it is objective, would be analogous to the external world.
The first model of objective morality to examine would be the idea that morality is an intrinsic part of the physical world. This would imply that some form of empirical observation would be able to evaluate morality because it can be observed through the senses. Nevertheless, no scientist is willing to suggest that mere observation of something is enough to determine its ethical worth when making moral choices. There seems to be no viable mechanism to explain morality as just existing de facto like laws describing the strength of electromagnetism at different distances. If materialism is true then all thought processes are contained by the brain. All thoughts are influenced in varying degrees by something external be it society, friends, religion, etc. The actual brain was also created in the external source of the mother. Thus, every position of each of the many neurons in each brain was determined by external sources upon birth. As a child develops, we might tend to think that it is making its own choices that will inevitably affect the connections and conditions of its neurons, but, in fact, since its birth, the child has been reacting with all manner of external forces and making no choices arising solely from within itself. The chain of effects on the atomic level is just too complicated to realistically track; hence, people are inclined to view the macroscopic world as either random or influenced by the wills of sentient beings. How can a sentience exist in a solely physical world if all brain functions are created through neurons that have throughout their entire existences relied on external stimuli for not only their next movement but their own existence in the first place? If a will can be reduced to physical movements of non-sentient matter on an atomic level, where is there room for moral choices or laws governing these choices? In case you might have not noticed, atoms cannot think. They just exist neutrally. If we are to increase the amount of them involved in a chemical bond and complicate their biological relationships, at what point does the mass of atoms gain consciousness and the ability to discern and make decisions that are not completely dependent on external physical factors? No matter how many atoms are added and no matter how complex their interactions are made, all of the forms created by the atoms will essentially be non-sentient matter that is incapable of moral agency. There is no reason to believe determinism is wrong according to materialism.
In this dreadfully cold, mechanistic situation what is there for scientists to look at when examining the supposed inherent laws of morality? The scientists can only measure these atomic interactions and predict their effects on other groups of atoms. Why should one outcome of atomic interaction be ethically wrong? If the misdeed is actuated in the physical world, why should one think that it should not have occurred? The physical world clearly disagrees with that person—if it could think—because it has made allowances for the misdeed to be actuated. There is nothing one can say empirically about what has occurred other than it has, in fact, occurred and what will happen because this thing has happened according to understood physical laws. All ethical atrocities can be actuated in the physical world, there is, therefore, nothing therein that has any moral prohibitions. This thought that something should not happen because it violates some inherent universal law must, if there is any truth to it, require some other basis besides physical processes.
If an atheist has a penchant for love, emotions, and beauty and demands that this poetic realm exists, then he must ask where there is room in the natural world for this realm to exist. When, since the supernatural is impossible but these poetic ideals somehow are, was this realm created and what physical mechanisms are there for it to interact with the normal physical world? The Big Bang occurred and now we have all these atoms, particles, and energy. But, where and when did these poetic ideals emerge? There is absolutely no way one can consistently allow for these ideals in a solely materialistic existence without creating a supernatural realm because there is no way to empirically understand them or how they interact with matter.
Let us now turn to theistic models for objective morality. We have several options here. Religions are either polytheistic, monotheistic, spiritualistic, pantheistic, or philosophic. I will briefly outline what I mean by each term so as not to confuse the reader.
Polytheistic religions mainly hold that there are a great number of gods for each distinct aspect of life. These gods either come from an earlier form of the same religion, which was most likely spiritualistic. The other possibility for the origin of these gods is appropriation from other cultures. Often in a polytheistic mythology the gods are to a certain extant anthropomorphic and rely on a distant powerful god for their origin. One can say that polytheists can be seen as monotheists from a certain vantage point, because the origin of the universe, humanity, and all the deities is usually found in a single god. Nevertheless, worshiping this progenitor god is hardly emphasized. It seems that he has either died, does not hold any power any more, or has stopped caring about his creation. Ancient Greek religion is an example of polytheism. The Olympian gods did not exist in the beginning of the world. They were created after another race of anthropomorphic Titans. The Olympian gods merge with minor gods, forest spirits, family protectorate spirits, etc. in the lives of the Greeks and Romans in the Classical era.
Monotheistic religions either affirm that there are no other gods but one, personal god; or, it can be that one god is affirmed to be supreme over other gods that actually might exist, but this supreme god is so overpowering and involved that the other minor gods are not be given much attention in comparison with him. He is independent of his created world in contrast with pantheism. Monotheistic religions cannot be as tolerant to religious appropriation as polytheistic ones because that would strip the one god of his sovereignty. Revelation in the general sense of the supreme god directly giving people certain information about himself or his world is very important to a monotheist’s understanding of reality. Besides the famous examples of monotheism, there are instances where monotheism emerged briefly among polytheistic cultures. In ancient Egypt, Atenism was introduced by Amenhotep IV, but was abandoned after his reign.
Spiritualistic religions are often found in more isolated cultures that have not had very prolonged interactions with other religions. Spiritualists believe in a supernatural realm, but they do not have their lives or mythology dominated by recognized gods. They believe in many spirits that are either good, evil, or neutral. When a person dies, they most likely join the myriad of other spirits. Spiritualists do not necessary worship spirits but they do understand that they need to either placate them or persuade the spirits in some way to provide them with good luck or success. Religions of particular traditional West African cultures or the very early culture of Latium, where Rome was founded, can be seen as examples of spiritualism.
Pantheistic religions are those that teach that there is a single world soul. All living things are connected in some way by this life force which originated in some supernatural aspect of the universe. Because the impersonal universe disseminated both life and anything associated with it, people consider that they and other people are part of this god. Therefore, everything is due some sort of respect especially living things because it is they that emanate directly from the life force of the universe. The natural world is god. Examples of this idea is found in some forms of Buddhism, American Indian cultures, and New Ageism.
A philosophic religion is one which is most likely created in a culture with a general polytheistic backdrop. The philosophic religion rejects, for the most part, the specifics of this polytheistic religion. The religion maintains that virtues exist and that the mysteries of the universe can be revealed through the elite who spend their lives philosophizing about them. The main foci include ethics and politics. Life after death is either not important or rejected. Confucianism is a form of philosophic religion. Deism would be a morph between a philosophic religion and monotheistic religion. For the most part revelation does not exist to for a deist; most knowledge about reality must be personally ascertained through reasoning. There is no afterlife. The supreme god is simply posited to create a way out of the atheistic pitfalls of explaining the origin of the universe and ethics, but nothing else.
All of these categories are not at all clear-cut. There are clear blends. The philosophy of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is highly concerned with stoicism and metaphysics. He has doubts that there is any afterlife, but he clearly does not reject polytheistic religion as a whole. As an emperor, he is the Pontifex Maximus, high priest. To apostatize would mean to commit treason. Nevertheless, we can look at these theistic options and examine their viability in undergirding an objective moral system.
Now, which of these modes of religions can sustain objective morality? If we take a look at polytheism for instance we have a case in which what is right and wrong cannot be embedded in the character of the gods because they are anthropomorphic. They make mistakes in mythologies and fight with each other. If each of them had their own character as the perfect standard of morality then there would be no cause to fight. They would all have the same conception of what the highest good is, therefore their motivation for acting would not be contradictory. On this view the gods are basically what supermen would be like. They have all these powers but still have the same intrinsic flaws that tragically exist in human nature. Besides, none of the gods are past eternal. It would be arbitrary to think that objectivity can just be invented when a god come into existence. One must again ask the question: what about before the gods? What was good then?