The Relative Goodness of God
Surely one of the strangest and most prevalent notions is that, without God, ethics are relativistic. The term ‘relativistic’ here means that good and evil are mere opinions, subject to no proof, universal imposition or general enforcement.
What could be stranger than to believe that the contradictory opinions of an elusive and invisible deity constitute absolute truth, whereas the biological fact that we are all human beings, and all subject to the same physical laws, is to be considered rank subjectivity.
To deal with the problem of subjectivity, a moral theory must be simple – and subject to the same tests as any logical or scientific theory. It has to have internal consistency, and cannot contradict known physical laws.
Any moral theory must satisfy the basics. It must be applicable to all people at all times, and also support the near-universal condemnation against certain crimes, such as premeditated murder, assault, rape and so on.
Any moral theory must also be able to both explain past and current phenomenon, as well as accurately predict future trends. For example, it must be able to explain why Nazism was evil, as well as Communism and fascism. It must be able to explain why Africa, for instance, remains mired in poverty and violence – as well as why the Muslim world remains so backward and violent. It must also explain the failure of imperialism. It would get bonus points for knowing in advance that the American invasion of Iraq was doomed to failure.
Also, for any moral theory to be taken seriously, it must also explain how certain advances in the human condition occurred. Why did capitalism raise the standard of living so highly? Why is democracy better than fascism? Why have wife-beating and ‘honour killings’ declined in the West, but not in the East? Why did socialism murder so many millions of people?
For anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the scientific method, none of this is startling. Scientists know that their theories have to be logical, and consistent with known reality and common perception.
Either we have property rights, or we do not. If no one has property rights, then no one has ownership over even his own body. Kidneys may be removed at will. No physical invasion is wrong. Rape is not a crime. Neither is stabbing someone. No sane person would defend such propositions. Thus we at least be said to have ownership over our own bodies. If we have ownership over our own bodies, then we must have ownership over the effects of our bodies. If I own my body, then I own my actions. If I own my actions, then I own the effects of my actions. If I do not, then I can never be condemned for stabbing or raping anyone. I obviously own my vocal chords. But what would it mean to own my vocal cords, but not the sound they produce? Owning the flesh is owning the effect. If people want to give me bread to hear me sing, then is not the bread they give me also an effect of my voice? Do I not own that bread as surely as I own my voice? All property comes from the first ownership – our own body and its thoughts. If we own our bodies, then we also own the property we produce.
Ah, but a man can come and steal my bread. How is that different from me giving him my bread? Stealing is as different from giving as rape is from lovemaking. The essential element is choice. If I own a piece of bread, it is a product of my choices and actions. If someone steals my bread, he is saying that it is a product of his mental and physical actions, which it is not. He acts to steal the bread, of course, but the bread has not come into existence because of his actions, but mine. He is contradicting reality on two levels. The first, mentioned above, is the claim that his thoughts and actions produced the bread, which it did not. The second is that he is stealing my property because he values property rights, which is a rank contradiction. I will steal your bread because I want to gain the value of owning bread – either eating it, giving it away or trading it. If everything I stole was immediately stolen from me, I would stop stealing. Thus I want the benefits of ownership, which I am denying to you. This is an utter contradiction. Illogical – and thus, when inflicted on others, immoral.
Rape is a particularly virulent subset of theft. All human beings own their own bodies, and so rape is subject to the same irrational premises mentioned above. Rape also suffers from the problem of contradiction. A man who rapes a woman is saying that his own pleasure is important. But he is simultaneously denying that the woman’s pleasure is important. But they are both human, and so he cannot make up laws which apply only to himself. Again, a rank contradiction, and so immoral.
The murdered man wants to live. His murderer wants to live. See above.
Morality is one of the easiest puzzles to solve. It is also one of the most instinctive. Children take many years to understand calculus. Take a toddler’s toy away from him and see what happens. So why is it so muddled for so many people?
Well, of course morality is the most powerful force in human life. It is muddled because whoever controls morality controls the world. It is muddled because priests and politicians and all the court toadies of the modern state have muddled it, so they can act against all the simple dictates of physical reality, base decency and common humanity. Priests tell us that God rules morality so that we will defer to their opinions. Politicians tell us that we should serve our country so we will kill and die for their petty grandeur. The primary goal of false moralists – or illogicians – is to make up an imaginary entity which defines morality, and then claim to be the only ones who can speak for it. Thus, you see, we are not serving them – just this… thing. God, country, race, priest, whatever.
And this – this is considered the opposite of subjectivity. Even if we assume that God exists, has the edicts He has handed down been so clear that they can be considered as objective as even the most fluctuating law of physics? Of course not! The Christian God murders entire cities, the entire world. He condones slavery, the murder of atheists and homosexuals, rape and all manner of irrationality and wrongdoing. If God were a man, we would rightly judge Him both mad and evil. He claims we should forgive our enemies, but punishes even inadvertent sinners with hellfire. He demands that we help others, but does not save even children from cancer. He commands us to refrain from killing, then tells us to kill unbelievers.
And – amazingly – this is all considered the most objective source of morality. The simple moral reasoning outlined above is considered the basest subjectivity, but the whims of an over-translated, contradictory, malevolent and frankly unproven deity are considered absolute and certain truth. It is the purest nonsense.
Finally, the scientific method demands that all theories explain and predict behaviour. It is simple to put the religious model to the test. The Christian Church ruled the Western world for over a thousand years, from before the fall of Rome. How were we doing? Look it up. When Church power was overthrown in the eighteen century, property rights began to be observed for the first time in human history. What was the result? The end of slavery. Capitalism. Freedom. The factories that saved mankind. The rise of the rights of women and children.
The theory of property rights explains the Dark and Middle Ages, the value of capitalism, the continued slavery in Africa, the murderous failures of communism, fascism, socialism and the barbarian habits of the Muslim states. Just as bad science produces barren knowledge, so irrational moral theories produce misery and death. All such social failures can be traced to a lack of respect for property rights – either of the effects of the body, or the body itself. The objective reality of property rights is also easily employed to predict the current and escalating failures of all State policies and programs, since the State’s power of taxation is antithetical to property rights (see ‘theft’ above).
Thus I find it amazing that irrational and inconsistent rules, backed by imaginary entities like the State, the people, the race, the country or some contradictory sky-ghost – and interpreted by men with no regard for logic or empirical truth – are considered objective, true and absolute. Simple moral truths such as those outlined above, however, which are consistent and true to the facts of life, reality and history, are considered subjective and relativistic make-believe.
It is time for us to rise above this manipulative, destructive and blinding confusion, and clearly see the simple rules inherent within both our own natures and the world we inhabit. Morality, like physics, is not defined by irrational whims or subjective preferences, but the fixed characteristics of nature. We are all rational animals, therefore we are all as subject to the same morality as we are to the same gravity. This does not mean that we must be moral – it merely means that if we are immoral, the consequences will be destructive. We may choose to jump off a cliff, but we cannot choose not to fall.
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.