A Voice of Reason on the ‘Morality’ of God

dogmaticCURE brings together images and music with the words of atheists (in this case, Sam Harris). I’d heard Harris’ remarks before, but paired with these effects, they become even more powerful:

Check it out for yourself:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    God has morals? Holy Shift who would of thunk?

    • Bubba Tarandfeathered

      I don’t think that stating god is good or just or kind is a statement of morality, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that god does have morals but he thinks that using them is unethical.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      Remember, he works in mysterious ways so while his actions may seem evil on the level of Stalin, his ways are much higher than ours and we just have to accept it. /sarcasm

  • Annie

    Powerful indeed.  I will share this tomorrow on FB, as I’ve already exceeded my self- sanctioned number of posts tonight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

    If for only an instant they grasped the depravity of their hubris. It is more moral that we should all burn in solidarity than to worship this capricious, and perniciously immoral creature often refereed to as Yahweh. Cosmic randomness in all its uncaring destruction, is an infinitely more moral view of reality.

    “When God closes a door, he opens a window…. right before blowing up the house.”
     

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Maybe it’s because I’ve heard this talk numerous times, or maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by his other videos- in particular We got scared
    and
    Standing on the Shoulders of Giants which I find much more moving.

    I would like to see what he does with Hitchens though…

  • Donaving

    Yeah. The “Morality of God” doesn’t quite jibe with what you think it should be.

    Awesome, dude.

    Just a quick question, though–do you eat meat?

    Just wondering.

    Carry on. (Or “Carrion”, as the case may be.)

    Don’t let your self-righteousness hit you in the ass on the way out.

    Blood tends to spatter. 

  • Ndonnan

    An interesting spin on somthing that dosent exist,so lets review some figures caused by someone who does.42million deaths per year,115000 per day.[kind of makes 9mill look good] These are killed while people do nothing to help or dont care to,people who are “good without god”,who are cruel& unjust,they visit suffering on innocent people,who are morrally reprehensable,they are the perfection of narcasissm.They are imposing misery this instant, a kind of belief that is seen.They are Secular Humanists,or Athiests,who think abortion is fine,good,a womans right.To think this way is to fail to reason honestly…..Oh, dont forget April28 the”unite against the war on babies” rally…..Thanks Sam Harris for all the narration

    • sunburned

       “An interesting spin on somthing [sic] that dosent [sic] exist.”

      At least we were on the same page for the first statement….I think.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Your numbers are out of date, it’s actually 44 million.   Of course since most people are religious, most of those abortions are obtained by religious people.  Although the number obtained in the US by “no religious affiliation” (23.7%  by your source) is greater than the “no religious affiliation” of the general population.As for doing nothing to help, well that depends.

      What do you think is worse, a pregnancy that doesn’t occur because a woman was on the pill, or one that is terminated within the first trimester?  Or one that happens in the 1st trimester, or one that happens in the 2nd because a woman had to travel to another state to get one?  Or a woman who, with her fetus, dies naturally because she maintained a doomed pregnancy, or a fetus that is aborted to save the mother?

      And what correlation do you think there is between access to contraception, and access to safe abortion (and access to comprehensive sex education) and religiosity?If you really want to see the number of abortions reduced (as I know you do, and everyone else does) then you will be for access to contraception.  And for access to comprehensive sex-ed.  Things that have been proven to reduce abortions.And if you’re against women dying due to botched attempts at illegal abortions, then you’ll be for access to safe abortions, which will hopefully be rare and early in term.

      http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-AIU-summary.pdf 

      Has a long list of how many lives would be saved if women worldwide had access to family planning and pregnancy related care.

      Remind me again who it was that blocked any US aid to any organization that provides abortions, even if the abortions are paid from other funds?  How many unwanted pregnancies that were ended with coat hangers do you think that caused?

      So tell me, are you on the “Abortion is murder and should be illegal” side, or on the “Abortion is horrible, let’s do all we can to reduce unwanted pregnancies” side.

      • Ndonnan

         As usual,a lot of good points,so i will try to answer honostly. A pregnancy that doesnt happen due to contraception isnt a pregnancy so yes it is better than an abortion.Women with “doomed” pregnancys usually have a miss-carriage [1 in 3 pregnancys apparently] of the 356000 pa who die i dont know what % would be during child birth as apposed to fetal abnormalities.The question you should be asking isnt the correlation between abortion ect and religosity, but between liberal lifstyle choice and abortion/aids/STDs. Take maternal deaths for example,in arab countries ,very strict standards,21000. Now look at Africa, 200000,Asia,130000.Similar in quality of lifestyles, 6-10times the death rate. Seems to me the key to the issue to unwanted pregnancys is a higher sexual moral standards or abstinance. The” church stay outta my knikkers”, attitude is fine but do it your way and you suffer the conciquences,even in a country like America with sex ed,contraceptives,abortion and healthcare,its still a major problem. So yes i do belive abortion is murder,plain and simple. When we first got married my wife fell pregnant and she was devestated,her first reaction was”i carnt go through with it”.She had a terrible pregnancy.he was a very difficult baby,but now hes a magnificant man and the father of my grandaughter Isabella.[due 22nd August]When anyone aborts  a blob of tissue,fetus,lifestyle choice,call it what you will,they are a person.My wife went from being pro choice to pro life when that reality sank in.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Separate topic: in another thread, you said that when you pray, sometimes the answer is “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that”.  So, God takes care of some thing for you.  Does that mean that God intervenes on your behalf due to your prayer?  Might not be exactly what you were expecting, but the outcome is changed?

      If so, then you’re one of those who think God does intervene in our lives.  If a baby is pulled from the rubble of an earthquake, or a crashed car, then it’s due to God’s Grace?

      So God’s hands aren’t tied by “free will”?

      Sorry if I’ve read you wrong on this, maybe you believe in a “hands off” God who can’t step in due to free will.  In which case, obviously God can’t prevent all that suffering because we chose the knowledge of good and evil.  Fair enough.  At least that’s what I would consider a logically consistent position.

      But if you do believe that God EVER steps in, then God also does an awful lot of not-stepping-in.  If I believed in God, I I’d prefer the one who never steps in.

      • Ndonnan

        From my expirience God does step-in,i dont belive in fate.The bible is full of examples of God answering prayer and “stepping-in”,and no it often isnt what we asked for or expected but in hindsight we can see how He worked.The person in the rubble,yes it is the grace of God,and no His hands arnt tied because of our free will except one,your free will to accept or reject Him, this is the only thing we can do that has eternal conciquences.Dont be decived,the church usually talks about the love of God[thats what this post is mocking] but dont be ignorant to the serverity of God,God diciplines those who He loves, thats being a father God. God does want to prevent suffering,most is the result of free will,not His lack of provision.Thats what makes Sam Harriss video pure verbal diarrhoea,9million children mostly die from lack of food and medication,both in plentiful supply.What he holds God responsable for is the result of governments and inderviduals failure.The common belief in christian circles is,man gets self rule for around 6 thousand years [nearly up] then the tribulation,[7 years]then 1000 year theocracy,[God rules]Because we are in the age of mans rule,God mostly dosent step-in,this is on a global scale down to an indervidual persons life choice.Thats why people will go to hell, because they dont want God to step-in.You choose Rich,I and God will honour your choice.And as annoying as that ladys aunt is,we wont stop reaching out.

  • DG

    I’m always curious.  By what objective moral authority do atheists judge God?  Or anything or anyone for that matter?  Not saying atheists aren’t moral.  Just what is the objective moral authority that gives the right to judge other moral claims?

    • Kevin S.

      Why the need for morality to be objective? Morality is fluid, an implicit social agreement between members of society at any given time… including the various stages of Hebrew society described throughout the bible. Morality was not the same in the time of David as it was in the time of Moses, and it wasn’t the same in the time of Daniel as it was in the time of Josiah. And this is when morality was allegedly coming directly from god! In my experience, “objective morality” is just code for “my morality.”

      • DG

        So you’re more or less saying any one morality is as good as another, only the calendar makes it otherwise?  Or if not, then upon what do folks judge other moralities?  If that’s true, what you say, then upon what authority would anyone suggest there is any problem at all with God’s morality? 

        • MariaO

          I defy you to find a single atheist that thinks making children under five suffer horribly and die is morally sound. There are very many things all mentally sound and not brain washed humans agree one, independently of what life philosophy they follow.

          • DG

            Perhaps not, but upon what authority beyond their own opinion would they say so?  Based on what Rich wrote below, that just happens to be what atheists now think.  What about 100 years from now?  When most cultures practiced human sacrifice or infanticide, was it OK then?  Slavery?  If not, why?  Or were they OK then, just not now, but maybe someday again?  That’s my question. 

        • Kevin S.

          Because we’re discussing it relative to our understand of morality.  We’re not the ones claiming there is some objective morality out there that we should judge others against.  I have no problem with conservative religionists thinking I’m an immoral bastard so long as they understand that it’s only subject to their worldview.  And it’s not the calendar that makes a difference so much as the knowledge and understanding we have at that point on the calendar.  Ancient Israel was an awful, brutal place.  We can say so while understanding that it was largely a product of its time and place, while still condemning its strictures as wholly unsuitable for today’s world.

          You still haven’t told me why, if morality is objective and comes from god, he changes his mind on it so often.

          • DG

            From the religious POV, it’s called progressive revelation and the written traditions being divinely inspired through human authorship.  Was Israel an awful, brutal place?  Compared to what?  The 20th century?  The USSR?  Its ancient contemporaries?  By what measure do you even condemn Israel, without falling into the trap of suggesting that your morality is the morality against which all other morality should be measured?

        • BenFromCA

          I’m not sure if
          you’re being deliberately obtuse or if you’re simply as clueless as your
          response implies. I thought Kevin did a marvelous job explaining your
          conceptual error.  Morality is not a
          thing that exists independently of human beings. There is no such thing as “a
          morality.”  It is simply the term WE have
          invented to describe how we agree to treat each other. If there were no sentient
          beings on the planet, the term “morality” would make no sense. The
          fact that theists HATE the implications of a “non-objective” morality (and will
          go to great lengths to invent all manner of superstition to rationalize the
          flawed concept) does not make one whit of difference in the real world.  Morality is, has always been, and will always
          be subjective in nature and your objections, admonitions and philosophical
          machinations will not change that fact. 
          Get over it.

          • DG

            Who’s WE?  And again, if morality is subjective, by what reasoning can you condemn anyone else’s morality aside from saying ‘because your morality is superior because it happens to be yours’? 

            • Brian Scott

              By the same reasoning you decide your morality: you decide what acts are bad, and rationalize (or don’t) axioms for them afterwards.

              We (the conglomerate we) refers to humans in general with respect to the motivations that have arisen in them (whether via evolution or whether mere learning by someone who decide it was a good idea a long time ago). E.g. don’t kill people in your in-group.

              I have a hunch where you’re coming from, and I really do find it weary having to deal with the tape recordings from CARM graduates again, but answer me this: what do you define as “morality”?

              • DG

                I get what you’re saying.  My question is, by what right, authority, reason (pick your favorite term) do you judge others – including, but not limited to, God?  Other than saying ‘because you happen to be better, smarter, more moral’ whatever?  As for my definition?  I’d say human conduct as it freely relates, and subordinates itself, to that ideal of what is right and wrong.    

                My problem I’m seeing is a lot of folks wanting it multiple ways.  One, there is no objective morality.  Yet at the same time, we can look at the morality of something like God or something like this or that action by religious people, and judge, even though we condemn people of religious faith for doing the same since there is, apparently, no objective moral standard by which to judge, except for when we can.  How can all of these things be consistently true?  That’s what I’m asking.

                Oh, and I’ve nothing to do with CARM.  These are questions I had as an agnostic that were never satisfactorily explained without my fellow skeptics descending into tirades of pre-pubescent level insults and smugness. 

                • Brian Scott

                  I may have misjudged you, so I apologize for that. However, you have said something that has made me curious: “ideal of what is right and wrong.” Whence arises this ideal?

                  The thing that seems to confound you is that morality is some sort of rulebook: that you seem to be assuming “why do this unless something says so” (as a gross paraphrase of what I believe you’re saying, and if I’m mistaken please correct me).

                  Let me ask you, conversely, why do anything? Why sleep, why eat, why play, why work, why have sex, why sing, why read, why hike, why mountain climb, why learn karate, why get in shape, why let yourself go, why…

                  The resolution to your conundrum lies in that: what motivations exist that drive humans to define right or wrong.

                  It is not incongruous for morality to be arbitrary and to justifiably attribute certain characters to them based on actions. The converse, which often accompanies questions such as yours and is the reason I assumed you were coming in from that angle – the deontological angle – that it is not WHAT is done that matters but by WHOM it is done, seems to lead inexorably into violence and mayhem. It is not my motivation that humanity descend into the destructiveness caused by authoritarianism.

                  So if you want to understand, perhaps, my base reasoning for why I espouse my morality is this: that my motivation is that I and my kin survive in this world, as is the motivation of many living creatures, and that deontology wreaks havoc upon me and others.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Imagine a 100 years from now we come to the point that killing animals to eat them is widely considered immoral.  Does that mean that all people who eat meat today are immoral?  People in the future may very well look back on us and shake their heads.  Maybe some will say “They were just the product of their times.  It was just the way it was done”.  And surely others will talk about how horrid we all were for killing innocent animals needlessly just to eat them.

          • DG

            So you’re saying there really isn’t anything really right or wrong but personal opinion of the day makes it so?

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              I have my own view of what’s right or wrong.  Others may disagree with me.  If enough agree, then chances are my society prohibits it.

              Here’s another angle.  None of us has objective morality.  Even those who claim a source such as the Bible can’t agree on exactly what it’s telling us. We all have to apply our subjective filter to it, so it becomes useless as an objective source.  Perfect example of that is
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TUYGb2_65Y
              Bible literalist James the Preacher rebuking Bible literalists Westbro Baptist Church because the latter let their women speak in public, and worship false idols (kid with Superman t-shirt).  They’re both getting their morals directly from the Bible, and yet all they can agree on is that the other one is going to Hell.  And boy do they agree on that!

              And

              No source of objective morality is complete.  There’s nothing in the Bible about talking on a cell phone in a restaurant, or driving drunk, or driving through a red light in an empty intersection at 3 a.m.  Many Christians think gambling is a sin, and yet it’s a real stretch to find any mention let alone  prohibition of gambling in the Bible.  So,  is gambling moral?  And is that  an objective stance, or just your subjective opinion?  Are all things not mentioned in the Bible moral?

              The closest I’ve seen to objective morality is “That which decreases suffering and increases well being is good”  But even then you have to subjectively decide which is the greater harm, the death of a 10 week old fetus or a woman forced to carry a baby to term.  Or the well being of two male lovers being able to kiss or the harm of someone who finds gay sex icky having to know that two men are kissing.

              Even “killing is wrong” comes with caveats.  People disagree on whether it’s wrong to kill a child rapist.  Or to kill someone you think is going to kill you.  Or how sure you have to be that you’re doing to die before you can kill someone else.  Or whether it’s ok to kill someone who asks you to, or…

              • Nordog

                 Rich, how about something like, “It is better to be than to not be”?

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Not sure I’m following.  Life is better than death?  I’m not sure that addresses suffering though.  Or in some cases the necessity of death.

                  Here’s a tough one, assume we develop the ability to live forever (on earth) but due to limited resources, we have to stop having babies.  Would it then immoral to live forever, and thus prevent another life from being born? 

                • Nordog

                  Rich, I don’t know how to respond, your question is a tough one.

                  Regarding my question, I think I meant it far more broadly than you read it.

                  Not all “non-being” got that way from death.  The category of “not-being” (if it can be a category at all) is greater that “those things which have died”.

    • Brian Scott

      You seem confused: you act as if morality is an external existence independent of humans and their relationships to each other. Your question might as well be “by what independent authority to we love others” or “by what independent authority do you find this music to be good”.

      • DG

        So you’re saying my belief that, say, the Holocaust was a bad thing, and the fact that I like the Beatles but don’t like the WHO, are more or less all sides of the same subjective coin?

        • Brian Scott

          Yes. The difference is the importance we assign to them and that humans differentiate between acts of mere disagreement and acts of immorality.

  • MariaO

    It is not my idea, but I find it a powerful one to turn the question around:
    Why is there so much goodness and beauty in the world when god is totally evil and uncaring? (And, yes, there is also a lot of that!)

    Exactly the same arguments for the “why evil in the world when god is good” works in this case too… Draw your own conclusions!

    • Kevin S.

      That’s easy – most wouldn’t claim that the Abrahamic god is “totally evil,” more “capriciously and arbitrarily evil.”  That certainly allows for there to be good in the world if this deity somehow exists.  Of course, the even easier answer to that question is that the deity doesn’t exist at all, and Judeo-Christian conception of him is a massive contradiction.

      • MariaO

        You are being a bit abtuse here. I does not matter which properties you give an imagingary being, but changing the direction of the question does – at least I think so – give a powerful illustration of the hollowness of the theodice apologists’ arguments.

        • Kevin S.

          I’m not attempting to be obtuse, and it appears that I may have misunderstood your question. If so, I apologize. Turning the question around isn’t something that makes much sense to me, because a totally evil deity isn’t something I’ve heard argued. But perhaps you weren’t attempting to refute that.

    • Miss_Beara

      “why evil in the world when god is good”

      The explanations I heard from this one makes me head hurt. Of course the most common one is “GOD is GOOD, there is evil in this world because HE gave us free will.” *

      * = written how it usually is when they make these comments. 

    • John G

      Why is there so much goodness and beauty in the world when god is totally evil and uncaring?”

      Harris isn’t arguing that god is totally evil and uncaring, he is arguing that the god imagined by Christians cannot exist. That god knows everything, so if it existed it would see the 17 children die every minute, and the pain that causes. That god is all-powerful, so if it existed it would be capable of preventing that pain without being forced to trade-off something else it wanted to accomplish. That god is totally good, so if it existed it would wish to prevent the needless suffering.

      Since that god cannot possibly exist, we are free to imagine others, or no god at all. The ancient Greeks and Romans imagined capricious gods which were just as likely to cause humans to suffer as cause them to prosper, for instance. Such gods are more compatible with the world we observe than the Christian god. I don’t personally believe any gods exist, but if they do they’re more likely to be like Zeus than the god invented by Christians.

  • http://5ecular4umanist.wordpress.com/ 5ecular4umanist

    Great video.
    (This post seems a magnet for religious trolls, though. Why do they bother?)

  • Nordog

    It is asserted that atheists can be good without God.  And this I think is true if by “without God” one means no faith in God, or even a conviction that God does not exist.  As Christian I cannot be in an unqualified agreement with that statement because I believe most goodness in non-believers comes from an innate recognition of natural law, and that natural law comes from God.  Plus, from a purely ontological point of view I hold that nothing can even “be” without God.

    But I digress.

    There’s an interesting thread here about the objectivity, or lack of, of morality.  And it is asserted that there is no objective morality, but rather agreed upon knowledge or understanding or some such of what is right or wrong.

    One commenter said, “And it’s not the calendar that makes a difference so much as the
    knowledge and understanding we have at that point on the calendar.”

    The problem here is that it seems to simply shift the goal posts so to speak.  Knowledge and understanding of what?

    It’s one thing to be good with out God.  It’s quite another to be good without a definition.

    And what is a definition of good without an objective measure?  It becomes not a thing at all, but what ever is agreed upon, or whatever is forced and foisted upon others.

    And it seems that Ivan Karamozov was right.  If there is no God then everything is permitted.

     One need only wait till those in power agreed on that which is to be permitted.  In which case the commenter here seems to me to raise a perfectly good objection to Sam Harris’ video.  In the absence of objective morality how does one condemn God?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      In the absence of objective morality how does one condemn God?

      I don’t see that as a problem.  I condemn people who circumcise their babies.  Most Americans don’t agree with me when it comes to male babies, so it’s legal.  Most Americans agree with me when it comes to female babies, so it’s illegal.  (That’s not a direct ‘so’, but you get the point).  I don’t care what someone’s culture or belief is.  I think circumcision causes harm (more in girls than in boys to be sure) and is thus wrong/immoral.

      God is no different.  I think it’s heinous and unforgivable to demand that someone kill their child to show their obedience to you.  God does a lot of things I consider wrong, but that’s at the top of my list.  I don’t care how many people justify that, or even (in the case of William Lane Craig) say that God saying it makes it by definition moral.

      And it seems that Ivan Karamozov was right.  If there is no God then everything is permitted.

      If a giant plate of pasta flew down and told you that it was the true God, and that theft was permitted, would you have he sudden urge to go steal something?  I think not.  In any case, I argue it’s a speculative position, because we can never run the simulation and see.  If God is there, we can’t remove him and see if our morals would magically vanish.  It’s kind of like God himself.  I don’t agree with you, but I can’t prove it.  Which IMO makes it kind of a useless position.  Maybe it’s true, but we have no way to investigate it.

      • Nordog

        The problem is, so people DO think it’s okay to steal.  Regardless of the “God question” the absence of any objective morality means that what is right is simply what is allowed, and what is allowed, and what is proscribed, is controlled only by force.
        Thus morality becomes simply what the strongest allows.

        Of course one can rightly argue that such is always the case.

        What I’m saying is that it’s one thing to say we disagree on what’s right and wrong, but without an objective case for morality it is a disagreement on opinion and not anything onotologically distinct in its own right.

        It THAT case, condemning the “evil God” of the Christians, or infant genital mutilation, or what have you, means nothing.  It is nothing more than a collection of molecules and bioelectric reactions struting on a stage with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

        And everything is permitted (or can be if the dominate molecules allow).

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Well, you’re not alone 
          http://www.theracquette.com/college_life/article_d2eb52c8-8f3b-11e1-ad0f-001a4bcf6878.html

          So how do you decide right from wrong for all the things for which the Bible doesn’t instruct you?  And what about differences between your interpretation of the Bible and James the Preacher’s?  If I understand, you’re arguing that God gives you an absolute standard of right and wrong.  And my problem is that I just don’t see that.  I see a lot of people quoting the Bible to back up their statements of morality, but none of them agreeing.  Shouldn’t absolute morality be something we can all agree on?  Or at least all the people who ascribe to it?  You may not like subjective morality, and it may seem to you like sound and fury signifying nothing, but I say it’s reality.  Like it or not, it’s what we’ve got.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

      This reminds me of that one time when you babbled on incoherently for several paragraphs. But I digress. “In the absence of objective morality, how does one condemn God?” Firstly, the video pretends to concede the existence of God. We then presumably condemn God by pointing out that He is acting contrary to the very values he espouses. In reality however, we concede no such thing, and are stymied by people who worship an imaginary evil creature.

      Isaiah 45:5-12
      King James Version (KJV) 5I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.


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