An Odd Response

An Odd Response July 23, 2004

Matt Powell of Wheat and Chaff has responded, at least indirectly, to my post on evolving morality. That is, he is ostensibly responding to my friend DarkSyde’s comments left on Rusty’s kind-of response to my post, but he mentions me by name. The mistakes in Matt’s post begin with the title itself, which is “Judging God”. But nowhere do I “judge God”. What I judged – i.e. analyzed, thought about, reached conclusions about – are claims about God, specifically the claims that God ordered slavery and genocide. I reject those claims, in every case in which they are made. Matt rejects all such claims except those in the bible. Those he celebrates.

Like Rusty, Matt doesn’t actually bother to answer the actual position being taken, which rests on two arguments. First, that the modern moral view, by consensus, is different from the biblical view in regards to slavery and war. Second, that the modern view on those matters is better than the biblical view. Matt does not address those arguments, just like Rusty didn’t address those arguments. Rusty’s answer was, essentially, “Unless you can say that God said so, you have no basis for making any moral claim.” That argument was answered here. Matt’s answer is, essentially, “You better accept that God did those things or he’ll do them to you too”:

You don’t get to decide whether or not God fits your standards of morality. What you get to do is to decide to submit yourself to His standards of right and wrong, or rebel against Him and destroy yourself in the process…

So go ahead and invent a God that’s more to your liking, if it makes you feel better. Or just write Him out of the picture altogether. But you might find Him knocking at the door one day, and you might not like what He’s got to say.

Again, Matt misunderstands the argument being made. The argument isn’t that God has no right to do such things, the argument is that it’s not rational or consistent to believe that God did such things. And if you’re trying to make the case that it is rational to believe that, you can hardly do worse than to base your reply on the notion that God will destroy you if you don’t just shut up and accept it. If that’s the best argument you have, you’ve pretty much proven the alternative correct.

Part of the reason Matt misunderstands the argument seems to be that he just didn’t bother to read it well in the first place. For instance, he says this:

Ed’s wrong, by the way, when you say no human dictator has ever commanded the destruction of whole peoples. Hitler with the Jews, Stalin with the Ukrainians, Mao with anyone who looked foreign.

There’s just one problem with this claim that I’m wrong – I never said any such thing in the first place. It’s difficult to give a good response to an argument when the argument you claim to be responding to was never made by the person you’re ostensibly responding to.

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