BSR 23: Moral Truths Are a Matter of Personal Opinion

BSR 23: Moral Truths Are a Matter of Personal Opinion June 27, 2020

Summary of reply: Sweeping moral claims built on Christianity only impress fellow Christians. Christians need to support their claims of objective morality with evidence.

(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)

Challenge to the Christian: Moral truths are a matter of personal opinion.

Christian response #1: Is your claim also just a personal opinion? If so, why accept it? And if moral truths are personal opinions, then they all have equal claim to being valid.

BSR: Ah, our old friend, the attempt to disqualify an opponent’s argument so you don’t have to respond to it. But no, not this time—the original challenge said that moral truths are a matter of personal opinion. That’s a claim, not a moral truth claim.

The “Why accept it?” question makes me wonder if you’re a newcomer to this planet. Do you not understand how people argue as they try to convince another person to change? We’re only human, and people usually resist changing their minds and may fail to honestly follow the facts to their conclusion. Nevertheless, minds are sometimes changed by a compelling argument and reliable evidence.

Moral truth claims aren’t all equal. You should accept a claim (and change your mind if necessary) if and only if it comes with a compelling argument.

It sounds like you’re convinced that objective truth exists. I doubt that it does, and you’ve made no effort to demonstrate this remarkable claim, but I’m listening. Remember, objective morality is more than merely belief that is strongly felt or universally held. Show us that its truth is grounded outside humans and that it is reliably accessible.

Christians need to back up the claim of objective morality. It’s more than moral belief that is strongly felt or universally held. It must be grounded outside humans and reliably accessible. Where’s the evidence? [Click to tweet]

Christian response #2: Subjective morality like this should push us to pursue our individual self-interests. Why care about others?

BSR: Since we do care for others, atheists included, something is obviously wrong with your analysis. The error is not that morality must be objective (grounded outside people) but that morality can be subjective and still be focused on others. Being social animals was evolutionarily beneficial, and our moral programming pushes us to be concerned about others.

Look up “morality” in the dictionary, and you’ll find nothing about it being objectively true.

There’s no evidence for morality being objective. Ordinary morality, as defined in the dictionary, can be subjective and still focused on others. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #3: If moral truth is just personal opinion, doesn’t that make it based on feelings? Morality should be decided by intellect, not emotion.

BSR: When you get an immediate visceral reaction to something—priests raping children is horrible or unforgiveable or a child making a special present for Mother’s Day is thoughtful or sweet—that’s part of our moral programming. The analysis is done instantly. We don’t need to consult a book of morality in God’s library for these.

But other moral questions don’t get immediate, black or white responses like these. For example, Should I spend an afternoon helping an elderly neighbor clean out their garage? How much of a family’s budget should go to charity, and which ones? Doing the right thing is a more intellectual process with questions like these.

Human morality comes from (1) our moral programming and (2) from society and our upbringing. God isn’t necessary to explain any of this.

Human morality is part moral programming (from evolution) and part customs and traditions (from society). [Click to tweet]

(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)

Continue with BSR 24: God Wouldn’t Allow Evil and Suffering

For further reading:

Everybody’s got to believe in something.
I believe I’ll have another beer.
― W.C. Fields

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Image from Daisuke Murase, CC license
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