Saturday, 9 May 2015

A Moral Argument Against Theism

It's commonly thought by theists that, in the absence of God, one is faced with difficult ethical or meta-ethical problems. Within the atheistic world view, morality itself, moral knowledge, moral motivation and so on are thought to be on shaky ground. Such beliefs are the basis of moral arguments for theism. Here then is a similar argument in the reverse: the existence of God, along with three indubitable and commonly held ethical beliefs, leads to a vexing contradiction.
  1. It is wrong to treat people as a means to an end, rather than as an end in of themselves.
  2. God (a perfect being who can do no wrong) allows innocent children to suffer and die for some greater end.
  3. Therefore, that greater end must be greater for the child: it must be in his own best interests to suffer and die.
  4. We should always aim to do what is in the best interests of others, and avoid doing what isn't in others best interests.
  5.  Therefore, we should not attempt to prevent the unbearable suffering or untimely death of innocent children.
But of all things, the unbearable suffering and untimely death of children seems to be something we should always aim to prevent. To deny this is absurd, so one of the premises must be rejected. Premise (1) is a statement of Kantian ethics, a very popular normative ethical theory. It seems too obviously true to reject. Premise (2) is true if God exists at all. To reject this would be to reject theism. Premise (4) seems to follow from our very a priori concept of a moral should. These are the only three premises.

What makes this argument interesting is that (1), (4) and ~(5) are almost impossible to reject. If anything could be taken as self-evident, surely these statements should be. God's existence, on the other hand, is not self-evident. Even if theism is very well evidenced, it's surely not as well supported by our intuition as these three other statements. Therefore, we must reject theism in favour of these three induibiable ethical statements.