Subjective Morality – What is evil? What is good?

Dr. Evil memeIf morality is subjective, everyone would have their own opinion of what is good and what is evil.

The only possible absolute standard of morality is an eternal, good, and unchanging God. To have an absolute, objective standard of morality we must appeal to a standard above man. God is that standard and he has revealed that standard to us in Scripture. His Law is also written on our hearts.

Most atheists argue that there are objective standards that are derived from societal standards.  Societal standards however are not absolute. The consensus changes in each society and every society around the world won’t have the same consensus.  And technically, such a standard shouldn’t be considered objective, but subjective.

True for You, But Not True for Me (Or is it?)

 

Truth is not opinion

When speaking with famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, on his Fox News program, The O’Reilley Factor, Bill O’Reilley told Dawkins, “I can’t prove to you that Jesus is God, so that truth is mine and mine alone. But you can’t prove to me that Jesus is not God, so you have to stay in your little belief system.” O’Reilley’s statement fits into a view of truth called relativism. It is common to hear relativistic expressions within and without the Christian community. Relativism holds that truth is relative to each person’s experiences, culture, and needs. Since such guideposts for truth are not universal, truth is subjected to individual determination.  Approaching all truth claims from a relativistic approach fails in three specific ways: failure to distinguish between subjective and objective claims, denies basic laws of logic, and is an inherently self-contradictory worldview.

First, relativism fails to distinguish between objective and subjective truth claims. Subjective truth claims are relative to each individual, because these claims deal in preference and personal opinion, often based on experience and feelings. For example, the best seats at a movie theater are the front rows. There are less people there to bother you, you don’t have anyone sitting in front of you to block your view, you always have a middle seat, and the screen encompasses the totality of your vision. I think the majority of the population would disagree with my claim, judging from my experiences of sitting by my lonesome in the front few rows of movie theaters. Others claim that the middle rows are the best. Others assert the back rows are superior. “The front rows are the best” is a true statement for me, but it might not be true for you, because determining the best row in a movie theater is based on subjective values.

Objective claims on the other hand lie outside of one’s individual partiality and experience for determining their truthfulness. They are unbiased claims that are determined to be true based on external realities that can be verified or tested.   Objective claims pertain to facts, not opinions. Sticking with movie examples, the Best Picture of 2013 according to the Academy Awards was 12 Years a Slave. That is an objective claim. It can be factually verified to be true or false. If it were simply stated that 12 Years a Slave was the best movie of 2013, it would be a subjective claim, because everyone has a different opinion on the matter, but the specific Oscar winner of the 2013 Best Picture award is not a matter of opinion. A movie either won or did not win the Oscars for Best Picture. Relativism fails to realize this distinction by handling objective claims as if they were subjective, which is what Bill O’Reilly failed to do, when saying that “Jesus is God” is his truth, but not Richard Dawkins’ truth.

A second failure of relativism is its denial of basic laws of logic. When relativists state that all religions are true, they reject the Law of Non-Contradiction. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that “A” cannot equal “Non-A”. This means a statement cannot be true and not true at the same time in the same respect. Plugging statements into this equation, “Jesus is God” (Christianity) cannot equal “Jesus is not God” (Judaism and Islam). Already, the Law of Non-Contradiction has disproven the notion that all religions can be true, however the Law of Excluded Middle and the Law of Identity further demonstrate relativism’s denial of reason. The Law of Excluded Middle states that “A” is either “A” or “Non-A”. This means an objective claim is either true or not true.  Jesus is either God or he is Not-God. Finally, the Law of Identity dictates that “A” is “A”; a thing is what it is. Therefore, if “Jesus is God” is a true statement, Jesus must be God.

A third failure of relativism is that it is a self-contradictory worldview. Relativists declare, “All truth is relative.” Yet, in their rejection of the existence of absolute truth, relativists are making an absolute truth claim themselves. If a relativist says, “There are no absolutes,” ask him, “Are you absolutely certain?” If a relativist says, “All truth is relative,” ask him, “Is that relative?” Such simple questions in response to relativism reveal the self-contradictions within such a worldview.

To answer this question directly, objective truth is not a matter of opinion. Jesus is God or Jesus is not God. We cannot have it both ways.   The truthfulness of these two positions is not contingent upon our subjective experiences. This means that it is intolerant to claim that all religions are true, because it would require the erasure, or change, of all exclusive teachings within all of the world’s diverse religious faiths to make them one. If relativism is not intolerance in action, then it must be ignorance that fails to distinguish between subjective and objective claims, denies basic laws of logic, and embraces an inherently self-contradicting worldview.

Consider ordering my book Contradict – They Can’t All Be True! 

 

Basing Beliefs Only on Emotions and Subjective Experiences Can Be Dangerous!

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend who shared how his mom claims to hear messages from God and sometimes these individual specific messages have been related to him and she shares them with him and expects him to respond as if it is God’s Word to him.  He of course questions such revelations.  He asks her how she can confirm such words from God?  Her response is you can’t invalidate my experience; I know what I heard; I know what I have received from God!

My friend’s response to her, “How is that any different from Joseph Smith [founder of Mormonism]?  Everyone has their own experiences, based on how you are confirming your own beliefs?”

Let’s be honest, most of our beliefs are lived in accordance to what we have experienced.  I trust the chair I am sitting in right now won’t break.  I haven’t inspected it all; I have just sat down in it because it’s in front of a table.  I do this based on past experiences, I’ve never had a chair break on me before, and I have only seen a chair break for one other person and that person was much larger than me.  However, the sturdiness of a chair can be confirmed apart from individual experience; I do not know the proper formulas and processes, but I trust the people who do whose jobs are to design safe chairs for sitting, so I base my decisions on my experiences in this situation, however such testing can be confirmed and tested objectively by anyone.

When I was very young, I believed Santa Claus traveled the whole world and gave presents to good kids and I also believed that Jesus was God and that he died for the sins of the world.  I believed these based on my experiences; my parents were trustworthy from what I had experienced.  But as I grew older I began to see objective evidence that this couldn’t be true (the presents I received on Christmas were already in the house weeks before Dec. 25th), so I rejected my beliefs in Santa Claus, but I still held to my beliefs concerning Jesus because I hadn’t found any objective evidence to dissuade that conviction despite learning that my parents weren’t as trustworthy as I had thought.  So I must admit my beliefs in Jesus began from experiences only; I had no evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead, besides being able to say, “The Bible tells me so.”

Saying the Bible is the Word of God because it tells me so, gets me back to my friend’s argument with his mom; if that’s all the evidence you have to make that claim, it’s no different than saying the Qur’an is the word of God because it says it is.  How can we invalidate such arguments, if a person just “feels” they are true?  This is in fact the arguments that Mormons make.  They believe in Mormonism because of the “burning in their bosom.”  But what if the feelings change?  Or the previous feelings aren’t felt any longer?  It’s a dangerous way to justify a belief as worldview impacting as a religious truth-claim.  I wonder if it’s why so many kids raised in the church leave the church and the faith when they leave their parents’ homes to go to college.

The problem with many religious truth-claims is that they aren’t falsifiable because they are wrapped up solely in internal, emotions, or subjective experiences.