Friday, July 29, 2011

Dr. Sam Harris: Atheist Morality - Part 3

Early in his lecture on morality Harris chides theists for arguing against atheism based on the utility of theism in providing a basis for morality.  I could agree with that.  The main point for theists should be that God exists.  But Harris is in the same trap - and has perhaps misrepresented the theists' arguments.

I believe - based on what I consider to be the best evidence (and despite Harris' and Dawkins' and Hitchens' disbelief) - that God exists and has revealed Himself to mankind in general and to me in particular.  I know God and have a relationship with Him.  I believe there is a universal moral framework that is based on the reality of God's existence.  That moral framework shows up in written revelation, in the historical life of Jesus Christ and even in Sam Harris' gut reaction against man's inhumanity to man around the world.  I am not arguing for the existence of God based on morality - I am pointing out that true morality is based on the existence and character of God.

But utility is all Sam Harris has for the basis of his universal moral framework.  There is no objective  moral standard for Harris - everything is relative.  He doesn't have an ought.  He cannot say, "you OUGHT NOT to torture, murder or oppress each other."  He cannot say, "you OUGHT to live in peace and harmony and love and kindness."

At best he can say, "there is greater utility in doing A instead of B."   Utilitarianism holds that the guiding principle of conduct ought to be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number.  This is all Harris has to work with in coming to a universal moral framework and it is not a new idea.

One of the side effects of that is that Harris is inconsistent in his application of his (so called) moral standards.  For example, he would support a woman's right to abort her unborn baby, but oppose a Muslim father's right to kill his daughter.  These views have nothing to do with some objective reality like the inherent value of human life.  (Harris is promoting the deaths of far more people than he is worried about saving.)  It is simply Harris' opinion that one is right and the other is wrong.

Instead of an objective morality based on the existence and character of God, we are left with a relative morality based on the existence and character of Sam Harris.  If utility is not a good basis for an argument for theism (and it is not), then it is no better as an argument for morality.
(Romans 1:28–32 NKJV) 28 ¶ And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

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