The Shape of Reality: Identifying Evil

Anthony Weber —  April 27, 2013 — 13 Comments
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“Your worldview has to have the same shape that reality does.”                     – J. Budziszewski

As noted in the opening post in this series, I believe Christianity offers compelling reasons to believe that truth is found most fully and consistently within the framework of a Christian worldview. Considering some recent front page headlines, it seems appropriate to begin by looking specifically at ethics and morality.

In the aftermath of the Penn State scandal, everyone agreed
that a long-standing taboo ought to remain: child molestation is not good. The recent case involving Dr. Gossnell’s butchery of newborn children, as well as the bombings at the Boston Marathon, have engendered an additional outcry against the presence of moral evil in the world.

People from all walks of life have found common ground in their stand against this type of injustice.  However, it is increasingly difficult to find a consistent explanation for why these are examples of objectively bad things – that is, actions that are wrong irregardless of individual feelings and preferences.

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NATURALISM/ATHEISM

  • Michael Ruse has stated, “Morality is a collective illusion of humankind put in place by our genes in order to make us good cooperators.”
  • Richard Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect of there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
  • In an interview with Skeptic, Frank Miele asked Mr. Dawkins, How do you determine whether something is good or not, other than by just your personal choice?”  Dawkins responded, “I don’t even try.”
  • The late Paul Kurtz wrote in The Humanist Alternative, “The humanist is faced with a crucial ethical problem: insofar as he has defended an ethic of freedom, can he develop a basis for moral responsibility? Regretfully, merely to liberate individuals from authoritarian social institutions, whether church or state, is no guarantee that they will be aware of their moral responsibility to others. The contrary is often the case…we may end up with [a man] concerned with his own personal lust for pleasure, ambition, and power, and impervious to moral constraints.”

In a naturalistic or atheistic worldview, there is no grounding for objectively evaluating good or evil, no claim of objective moral certainty, no ultimate right or wrong other than what we decide by personal choice or tribal agreement. This is not to say atheists have no sense of morality – that is clearly not the case. But if atheism is true, our apparently intuitive revulsion at child molestation, infanticide, and terrorist bombing seems to be no more than humanity’s collectively chosen illusion in a universe devoid of objective good, evil, and justice.

Perhaps this inability to define terms helps to explain why formerly taboo issues like infanticide are starting to gain a foothold in mainsteam conversation.  This is the abstract of an article entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” in the Journal of Medical Ethics:

“Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

I am not offering that quote to argue that a morality founded in naturalism or atheism leads to infanticide. I am simply noting that, if there is no such thing as “wrong” or “evil,” then nothing objectively bad is happening here. People might not like that doctors like Gosnell punctured the skulls of newborns and snipped their spines before collecting body parts on his shelf, but that’s about it.

In a world of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some kids will get molested and some won’t (and some psychologists will support child sexual assault).  Some marathon runners will get bombed and others won’t (and about 1/3 of the population will think that terrorism is justifiable). Some people will think that what Dr. Gosnell did was appalling (and some judges will  find no crime in cutting the spines of newborns with a scissors, while some eminent philosophers will defend its permissibility).  We dance to the music of our DNA, and if our DNA plays a discordant tune, that’s not our fault. Blame a pitiless universe devoid of justice and full of bad luck.

EASTERN RELIGIONS

While many adherents to Eastern religions (and the Westernized New Age movement) have a carefully defined commitment to the moral life, the religions themselves struggle to identify good and evil as well. If all is one – if a form of monism such as pantheism is true – then everything that exists, including good and evil, is part of  one unified reality. The lines of moral demarcation becomes blurry at best.

  • Joseph Campbell records an interview with a Hindu guru who said, “There is no good; there is no bad.”
  • Zen Master Yun-Men said, ‘’The conflict between right and wrong is sickness of the mind.”
  • Herman Hess wrote in Siddhartha, “The world…is perfect at every moment…I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me.”
  • In The Aquarian Conspiracy, the late Marilyn Ferguson wrote that once people achieve a higher consciousness, “There is less certainty about what is right for others. With an awareness of multiple realities, we lose our dogmatic attachment  to a single point of view.”

I am not suggesting that adrents to Eastern religions are by definition immoral. That is clearly not the case. I am simply noting that it’s hard to see how they explain our instinctive sense of morality when the difference between good and evil exists only in our mind. To borrow from the language used in the quotes above:

  • Those who molest boys are not “bad,” and those who bring molesters to justice are not “good.”
  • Seeing a difference between the perpetrators and victims of a bombing is a sickness of the mind.
  • When a doctor perforates a woman’s bowels with rusty instruments,the world is perfect at that moment.

If this understanding of morality is true, we are left with either the illusion of evil and good, or a very confused universe in which evil and good are one and the same.

The foundational claims of both of these worldviews are counterintuitive to what we know to be necessary if this life is to make any kind of moral sense.French philosopher Luc Ferry – a self-proclaimed secular humanist –  has written in his best-selling book ‘A Brief History of Thought’:

“The literature of materialism is peculiarly marked by its wholesale profusion of denunciations of all sorts. Starting with Marx and Neitzsche, materialists have never been able to refrain from passing continuous moral judgment on all and sundry, which their whole philosophy might be expected to discourage them from doing.”

For example, Dawkins says teaching religion to children is child abuse. But if Dawkins is right that there is no good and evil, and a world of blind physical forces is indifferent to us, then my teaching of religion can’t be any more wrong than the child abuse to which he compares it. I tell my boys that God exists and Jesus offers them life and hope; Coach Sandusky molests young boys in showers. According to Dawkins, there is an actual moral equivalence there.

This is foolishness. Dawkins himself has conceded by his own description of the nature of reality  that he’s not talking about “bad” or “good.” He’s talking about what he personally prefers. You can’t live consistently in a worldview that says there is no evil or good, then promptly try to say certain things fit those categories. Even Hollywood understands the need for a standard. Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, noted in an interview with the New York Times,

“If there’s a larger lesson to ‘Breaking Bad,’ it’s that actions have consequences. If religion is a reaction of man, and nothing more, it seems to me that it represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished. I hate the idea of Idi Amin living in Saudi Arabia for the last 25 years of his life. That galls me to no end. I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something. I like to believe there is some comeuppance, that karma kicks in at some point, even if it takes years or decades to happen. My girlfriend says this great thing that’s become my philosophy as well. ‘I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.’”

If naturalism/atheism is true, no one can be brought to justice in an objective sense, because no one does anything objectively wrong – which means nothing can be made right. If monism/pantheism is true, justice is as illusory as the good and evil it would normally seek to adjudicate. Arthur Leff, atheist law professor at Yale, wrote in a Duke Law Journal article entitled “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law”:

“I want to believe – and so do you – in a complete transcendent and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong; findable rules that authoritatively, and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe – and so do you – in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not on only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but decide for ourselves, individually and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it…

We can say that a valid legal system must have some minimum process for rational determination and operating. We can say that the majority cannot consistently disadvantage any minority. We can say that, whever else a majority can do, it cannot systematically prevent a minority from seeking to become a mojority. We can say all sorts of things, but what we cannot say is why one say is better than any other, unless we stated some standard by which it definedly is. To put it as bluntly as possible, if we go to find what law ought to govern us, and if what we find is not an authoritative Holy Writ but just ourselves, just people, making that law, how can we be governed by what we have found?

…As things stand now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: Napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved…. There is in the world such a thing as evil. All together now – sez who? God help us.”

Joel Marks, an atheist  professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of New Haven and a scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, has recently arrived at the same point of epiphany. He wrote last week in the New York Times:

“I had thought I was a secularist because I conceived of right and wrong as standing on their own two feet, without prop or crutch from God. We should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. But this was a God too. It was the Godless God of secular morality, which commanded without commander – whose ways were thus even more mysterious than the God I did not believe in…”

CHRISTIANITY

Christianity claims that Vince Gilligan’s “desire for wrongdoers to be punished” can be fulfilled precisely because some things are objectively wrong or right, and that justice is the process through which an objectively good moral standard can bring a judgment that transcends preference alone.

A worldview informed by Christianity claims that we instinctively believe in right, wrong, and justice because these things exist. It’s ingrained in our nature to seek them. C.S Lewis noted that in the same way our ordinary longings have a source of fulfillment (we are thirsty, and there is water), something real exists to fulfill much deeper  longings (such as joy) as well.  In this case, we long for the world to be just. Christianity says this longing can be genuinely fulfilled as real good overcomes real evil.

William Lane Craig identifies the Christian grounding for the very language of morality:

“On the theistic view, objective moral values are rooted in God. God’s own holy and perfectly good nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. God’s moral nature is what Plato called the “Good.” He is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth. Moreover, God’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commands which constitute our moral duties or obligations. Far from being arbitrary, these commands flow necessarily from His moral nature.”

What, then, is evil? Christian theologian R.C. Sproul writes,

“Evil cannot be defined as a thing or as a substance or as some kind of being. Rather, evil is always defined as an action, an action that fails to meet a standard of goodness. In this regard, evil has been defined in terms of its being either a negation (negatio) of the good, or a privation (privatio) of the good. In both cases, the very definition of evil depends upon a prior understanding of the good.” 

Christianity offers a foundation for good (the nature of God), identifies the source of  the world’s problems (a force is at work that seeks to negate or deprive the good), and offers hope for justice and  (God, the foundation of all that is good, has given us a framework within which to adjudicate between good and evil so that justice can be realized). Francis Schaeffer wrote in “Christian Faith and Human Rights,”

“One of the distinctions of the Judeo-Christian God is that not all things are the same to Him.  That at first may sound trivial, but in reality it is one of the most profound things one can say about the Judeo-Christian God. He exists; He has a character; and not all things are the same to Him. Some things conform to His character, and some are opposed to His character.” 

Goodness has its foundation in a perfect God that transcends our personal preferences and models of reality. Since God has revealed what is truly good, we know how to become good no matter how evil we are. We are not stuck in a universe of blind, pitiless indifference.

Os Guiness recounts the story of W.H. Auden’s journey toward the Christian faith. It began in a theater in America during World War II when Auden observed a German audience cheering the bayoneting of women and children during the siege of Poland. At that moment, Auden realized the pervasiveness of evil within humanity.

“The second thing I saw instinctively, if I was to say that was evil, I had to have a standard by which to do so. I didn’t have one. I’d spent all my life as an intellectual, destroying the absolutes, and now suddenly I needed one to be able to say this was wrong” (quoted in “Time for Truth,” in A Place For Truth).

Because Christianity has a worldview which defines both good and evil, Christians are able to acknowledge and fight the brutal reality of evil with the saving power of good, which makes healing, hope and justice not only real, but possible.

“The purpose of a worldview is to explain the basic data of human experience, not to deny it.”    – Nancy Pearcey, “Saving Leonardo

 

(Up next: “The Shape of Reality: Are We Really Free?”)

Anthony Weber

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Anthony graduated from Cedarville University in 1995 with a degree in English Education, and from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana in 2004 with a Master's Degree in Theology and Philosophy. Anthony is a husband and father of three, an author ("Learning to Jump Again"), high school and college teacher, pastor, blogger (tcapologetics.org, empiresandmangers.blogspot.com), and co-founder of etcetera, a "street-level philosophy group" in Traverse City, Michigan.
  • Levi

    Thinking in terms of Good and Evil can be an oversimplification. If you think about any opposites in nature; Light and Dark, Male and Female, Cold and Hot, Loud and Quiet, there is always a range in the middle where the lines blur and it becomes unclear which is more present than the other. It’s these boundary zones that we live in, morally, most of our lives. It’s not often we are faced with such immense evil as those who napalm babies. So it’s learning to navigate this edge that I think the real interesting facet of morality lies.

    Personally I do perceive that we have a moral sense, much like our other senses as Scott explained. And, like those senses, it too can be honed so that we have a clearer perception of what we are called to do in a given moment. You could call this knowing the will of God, or surrendering to the Holy Spirit or living in Grace, or following your dharma, etc. It doesn’t matter so much what we call it, but how we use it; the relationship that we have with this divine part of ourselves.

    anyhways, I just try to live in love. Thanks for sharing Anthony! Peace!

    • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

      Hey, Levi :)
      I agree that we live much of our life in a zone that is some shade of grey, and that our sense of what we ought to do is a skill that needs to be honed like many others. The blacks and whites probably help us define the outer limits, though, and hopefully we can work our way back as we navigate the gray.
      Napalming babies is horrible, and coddling them is good. I’ll bet we can find a lot of other things on this side of napalming that we all instinctively agree are bad, and a lot of things less lubby dubby than coddling that are still good. It will not remove all the gray, but I think we can learn principles that take a fair amount of murkiness away.
      As I mentioned to Steve, I do believe humanity can agree upon basic moral codes irrespective of religious belief. From my Christian perspective, it’s a gift of common grace that God gives us all.
      Just so I better understand you, how would you define the divine part of yourself? Is it a participation in something divine in the universe? Is it an inner spark, an inner child, an innocent part of you? Something I’m not even remotely close to suggesting? :)

    • Recondaddy

      “Thinking in terms of Good and Evil can be an oversimplification. If you think about any opposites in nature; Light and Dark, Male and Female, Cold and Hot, Loud and Quiet, there is always a range in the middle where the lines blur and it becomes unclear which is more present than the other.”

      With all due respect, this statement portrays some serious misunderstandings about reality and smacks of Manichean dualism. Light and dark are not opposites of one another, since dark is not a “thing”. Darkness is the absence of a real thing, namely light. There is no range between light and dark where the “lines blur” — where you have a mixing of light and dark.

      The same is true of hot/cold and loud/quiet. Cold is not a thing. It is the absence of heat. Quiet is not a thing. It is the absence of noise.

      Observe the difference between these things you list. Cold, dark, and quiet have no objective measurement. Temperature is not a function of how cold an environment is — it’s the measure of how much heat there is in a system. When all the heat is removed from a system, you reach the bottom limit — absolute zero. You can add as much heat as you have available — it’s limited only by the amount of heat you have. Coldness is not a thing as evidenced by the objective inability to measure it.

      You said: “Personally I do perceive that we have a moral sense, much like our other senses as Scott explained. And, like those senses, it too can be honed so that we have a clearer perception of what we are called to do in a given moment.”

      Would this be something like a biological instinct? If so, this doesn’t hold. As living creatures, we have biological instincts — some that are even contradictory. Humanists try to convince us that morality is simply cooperation — the herd instinct, and I don’t dispute that we have such an instinct. However, some instincts that we have are contradictory, and we are forced to choose between them.

      For instance, if we see someone in physical danger, we notice two instincts arise in us — the herd instinct that prompts us to help but also a powerful instinct for self-preservation. The thing that causes us to choose between these two instincts (and, in most cases, choose to follow the weaker instinct) cannot, itself, be an instinct. In order to choose between instincts, it must transcend instinct.

      You said, “anyhways, I just try to live in love. Thanks for sharing Anthony! Peace!”

      An admirable quality, to be sure, but who says that love is morally good? Sometimes deception, cruelty, and grift are more beneficial. What makes love morally preferable.

  • Steve Ruble

    “[God] is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth.” – William Lane Craig

    Yahweh is by nature powerful, jealous, wrathful, invisible, everywhere, ancient, unchanging, and a virgin. Therefore we should aspire to emulate these traits, because the nature of Yahweh defines what is good, and things which have these traits are better than things which do not. Or maybe not. By what standard do you choose which attributes of Yahweh’s nature will count as sources of moral value and which will not?

    Yahweh holds people accountable for their actions, therefore holding people accountable for their actions is moral. Yahweh forgives people for their actions, therefore forgiving people for their actions is moral. If justice and mercy are both objective moral goods, what standard could exist which would allow one to choose between being just and being merciful?

    Here’s what I think is happening: modern people think that being loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth love is good, because we can see how much better our lives are when everyone shares those traits. There is general agreement that god is good, so people conclude that god must also have these traits. In a culture where power, wrath, jealousy, and attention to ritual are seen to be the traits that improve people’s lives – say, in a civilization composed of nomadic raiding tribes and invasive hegemonic empires – people project those traits onto their god, and this is actually what we see in much of the OT. In general, people assume that whatever traits they happen to think are good are in fact objectively good, and of course their god has those objectively good traits. Do you think this does not happen?

    • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

      Steve, I typed the world’s best reply this morning…then lost it as I tried to log in. You’re going to have to trust me on how amazing it was :) Now you have to endure a much lesser reply, since I spent all my brain power on the one this morning :)
      God is necessarily powerful, ancient, unchanging, and everywhere. He is not necessarily invisible, jealous, or virginic. In other words, if God became tangible, God would still be God (the Incarnation). When God is not jealous, God does not stop being God. And since God has no sex life, your comment about virginity makes no sense. (I would agree that God is pure, and that when we practice chastity – not the same word as virginity – we too are pure).
      As a Christian, I seek to emulate God’s character (God is pure; I strive to be pure), mimic God’s capabilities (God is Powerful; I seek to use my power well), learn from God’s emotions (there is a jealousy that lovingly protects rather than fearfully controls) and accept that there are some things about God that are just not ever going to be attainable for me because I am not God (God is invisible and everywhere; I am visible and localized.)

      You and I agree that culture can agree on good moral codes. You believe they are invented; I believe they are discovered because God nudges us all toward the good even while we often desire the bad. Families, communities, and governments help to codify what we have discovered to be true.
      Of course, many culture agree that terrible things are okay. That obviously happens, as you have noted. But we are having this conversation because we both agree that when societies choose bad things (say, the burning of widows on their husbands funeral pyre) they are wrong. Not just wrong in the sense of, “Whoa, that was quirky. Who saw that coming?” Wrong in the sense that no matter what they might think, they are just wrong.
      Do you agree that we can make those kinds of claims? If so, what is your basis for that? I know you find God to be lacking as a foundation, but I have a hard time seeing how reality as defined by atheism offers a compelling alternative. If I may quote my own article (blush), Arther Leff says that as much as he wants a solid base for morals, everything is up for grabs. Joel Marks says the Godless God of humanism is more mysterious than the God if the Bible. Do you agree?

      • Steve Ruble

        Sometime I’d like to hear what you think it means to say “God is pure”. Pure what? Anyway, if it impossible for Yahweh to sin, then saying he is sinless is as senseless as saying he is a virgin.

        I think it’s interesting that you distinguish between a jealousy which “lovingly protects” and a jealousy which “fearfully controls”. Take an example of Yahweh’s jealousy, from Exodus 20: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Note that the rationale for forbidding idol worship is not that it is foolish, or based on false premises, or otherwise harmful; the rationale is purely that Yahweh is jealous, and that if you affront his jealousy he will punish not only you but your children and grandchildren. This is what the text says. Now, you can put a spin on it and say that Yahweh is “lovingly protecting” his followers from falling into error, but isn’t it obvious that what you would be doing is assuming that *because* love is a good thing, Yahweh *must* be acting out of love? You would be projecting your own moral principles onto a very clear description of Yahweh demonstrating a moral principle which we no longer think is very commendable.

        You ask if I think we can make claims of the form, “That person is wrong in the sense that no matter what they might think, they are just wrong.” I would say we can make a very similar claim: “I think that person is wrong, no matter what that person thinks.” As a practical matter, the latter claim is the same as the former. In either case, the person who is accused of being wrong has exactly the same ability to say the same thing back to us. Even if it made sense to talk about “objective foundations for moral truths” the world would be the same as it is now, because people can only subjectively evaluate the value of the putative “objective foundations”.

        I think I’ve said this before, but it’s important enough to say again: many disagreements about “moral” issues are not actually moral disagreements, but empirical disagreements. If the Jews really had been inhuman demons bent on destroying humanity (which of course they were not) then the Nazis would have been right to attack them. If the gods of Hinduism were real, perhaps the immolation of widows would be a good thing. And so on. Many non-empirical “moral” disagreements are about philosophical “facts”: many arguments about abortion, for example, are about the ontological status of a fetus, and take for granted that if a fetus is a “human” all parties will agree on the immorality of killing it. Furthermore, most non-factual “moral” disagreements are arguments about fairness: assuming a fetus is a human, one can ask if it is fair to subordinate the interests of the mother to the interests of the fetus, or one can ask if it is fair for some people to get paid more than others when all are working equally hard. I find it difficult to think of “moral” disagreements which cannot be decomposed into these categories, although of course there are some.

        I must end here. More later…

        • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

          1) Pure – free from corruption. Untainted; undefiled. That kind of pure. Saying God is by definition pure (and thus cannot sin) may be similar to saying a triangle is a three-sided polygon (and thus has three sides). It’s not senseless. It’s true by definition.
          2) God being jealous: My point was that not every kind of jealousy is impure or corrupted (to tie in to the “pure” discussion).
          I don’t think you are reading that verse well. All of the surrounding cultures had forms of worship that were very destructive either to the individuals or the culture, including the ritual sacrifice of children. Would it not make sense that a God who lovingly protects would say, “Don’t go there”? The comment about generations is, I believe, a practical one. There is a ripple effect to our actions. Throughout the history of the world, beliefs, traits, and tendencies get passed down generation to generation. I don’t see this as God promising an ongoing active curse; I see this as God warning them about how life will play out.
          I know you think that is “putting a spin on it.” I’m not trying to do that; I think it’s the proper reading of the text.
          3) “I believe that is wrong” is a significantly different statement than “I think that is wrong.” If I found out my neighbor was abusing his young daughter every day. One day I decide to confront him and I say, “You, sir, are wrong in what you are doing.” If he says, “That’s just your opinion,” I would respond that it would not matter what I thought about it any more than it matters what he thinks about it. It’s wrong.
          Even in a world where we both thought it was okay – even if the entire city thought it was okay – it would not be okay.
          Having an opinion about what’s moral is very different from believing right and wrong exist apart from my opinion (our our collective opinion) about them.

        • Steve Ruble

          1) So “pure” means “free from things which are unpure”?

          2) My point in bringing up that verse was to illustrate that you interpret Yahweh’s description of himself in terms of what you think is good, rather than accepting the description as it stands. If you were simply taking Yahweh’s character as the standard of good then upon reading that Yahweh is jealous you would add jealousy to the list of things which are good. In reality, you have your own lists of things which are good and jealousy is not on that list, so you must provide an eisegesis of “I am a jealous God” which makes it compatible with your personal list of good things. You do this by acting as if Yahweh had said, “Do not worship other gods because these forms of worship are destructive to you, and will have ripple effects which harm your descendants,” which is quite different from what he actually said – indeed, in the verse the negative consequences are quite clearly coming from Yahweh himself, not from the practice of worshiping other gods. (Translations vary in intensity, from “responding to the transgressions of the father by dealing with the children” to “punishing the children for the sins of the fathers”, but no one translates it as “observing the negative consequences of the fathers’ actions upon their children”, as your interpretation would require.)

          3) Holding a belief that something is wrong is by definition a subjective phenomenon; if some action were “objectively” wrong but you did not know that fact, it would not matter to to you, and never could matter to you until your subjective beliefs changed. This is quite different from other “objective” facts, which can affect people whether or not they subjectively believe them. Even if moral facts “objectively” exist, their existence has no observable effects in the absence of individuals who subjectively assent to them. I think this means there is no practical difference between a world in which there are “objective” moral truths and a world in which there are no such truths, so I follow Occam and deny their existence. What do you think the practical difference would be?

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