Morality and God
The belief that morality requires God remains a widely held moral maxim. In particular, it serves as the basic assumption of the Christian fundamentalist's social theory. Fundamentalists claim that all of society's troubles - everything from AIDS to out-of-wedlock pregnancies - are the result of a breakdown in morality and that this breakdown is due to a decline in the belief of God. This paper will look at different examples of how a god could be a bad thing and show that humans can create rules and morals all on their own. It will also touch upon the fact that doing good for the wrong reasons can also be a bad thing for the person.
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Thou shalt torture innocent children in your spare time. ..." The reason that this is possible is that killing, raping, stealing, and torturing were not wrong before God made them so. Since God is free to establish whatever set of moral principles he chooses, he could just as well have chosen this set as any other.
However it is absurd to think that such needless killing, raping, stealing, and torturing could be morally permissible. Moreover, to believe that God could have commanded these things is to destroy whatever grounds one might have for praising or worshiping him. And if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful? Besides it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must precede the act.
Leibniz's position is that, if things are neither right nor wrong independently of God's will, then God cannot choose one thing over another because it is right. Thus, if he does choose one over another, his choice must be arbitrary. But a being whose decisions are arbitrary is not a being worthy of worship.
The fact that Leibniz rejects the Divine Command Theory is significant, for he is one of the most committed theists in the Western intellectual tradition. He argues at great length that there must be an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God and consequently that this must be the best of all possible worlds, for such a God could create nothing less. What Leibniz demonstrates is that, far from being disrespectful or heretical, the view that morality is independent of God is an eminently sensible and loyal one for a theist to hold.
To avoid the charge of absurdity, a Divine Command theorist might try to deny that the situation described above is possible. He might argue, for example, that God would never condone such killing, raping, stealing, and torturing, for God is all good. But to make such a claim is to render the theory vacuous. The Divine Command Theory is a theory of the nature of morality. It tells us what makes something good by offering a definition of morality. But if goodness is a defining attribute of God, then God cannot be used to define goodness. If being all-good is an essential property of God, then all the Divine Command Theory tells us is that good actions would be willed by a supremely good being. While this is certainly true, it is unenlightening. For it does not tell us what makes something good and hence does not increase our understanding of the nature of morality.
A Divine Command theorist might try to avoid this circularity by denying that goodness is a defining attribute of God. But this would take him from the frying pan into the fire, for if goodness is not an essential property of God, then there is no guarantee that what he wills will be good. Even if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, it does not follow that he is all-good, for, as the story of Satan is supposed to teach us, one can be...