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Scaling the Secular City 4: God and the Meaning of Life


“it is false that values do not exist. I know with a high degree of certainty that torturing babies is wrong, that what the Nazis did to the Jews was wrong, and that one ought to treat persons with respect and dignity. These values exist. . .” (116)

Hmmm, bare assertion. Appeal to our moral intuitions. Interesting, and lame. Luckily, Moreland acknowledges that a nihilist would say that the question was begged. He responds:

But Roderick Chisholm has pointed out that there are many things one can know without having a criterion for them knowing them. . . But I do know some things (e.g., that I exist, that I had breakfast this morning, that there is an external world, that other persons exist, and that values exist).

But doesn’t Moreland need to show why these ideas, and not others fit into the category of not needing justification/criteria? If he doesn’t provide one, then can’t I simply say that I too, know that his argument is wrong? I was thinking that Moreland would further justify his assertion, but he seems to have ended the section by saying that a nihilist is “simply wrong.” I know there are more sophisticated defenses of this. As presented in the book, his argument is a failure. He seems to be confusing his feelings that something is true with his knowledge that something is true.

I’m just a little troubled at how often Moreland says that on humanism we are “modified monkeys.” We can let it slide though.

P 128 “they (humans) have value in that they bear his (God’s) image.” Does this fall into the problem of not being an explanation? Does this base found value? I wonder if this is an example of a bad answer, where a good one is forthcoming. How can one judge?

Moreland also tries to answer the Euthyphro dilemma. He says that something isn’t just right because God commands it. It’s right because a good, loving God commands it. But goodness is based on God’s standard in the first place, so even a God that commands baby raping is good. Next, it seems arbitrary to say that something is good because a loving God commands it. Why is loving a better base than hating? A theist might respond that it’s because love is good, but once again, this is an example of defining good in a circular way. Why is love good? Because God says so. Why is what he says good? Because he’s loving.

There are some reasons Moreland provides to justify being moral. P 130 “because I love God, because I think it is rational to obey a kind, benevolent Being who created me and knows what is right and what is best for me, because I think it is simply right to do one’s moral duty.

These help give examples of what I try to think of are justifications a theist can give for being moral. I suspect they ultimately reduce to desirism.

This chapter could use some development. I think that many of the critiques of the other sources of value may in fact be valid. I’ve never thought that Paul Kurtz did very well in grounding his ideas of value, but then again I’ve never read any of his books.

Questions remain.

  1. Is God a good explanation for value and morality?
  2. Do the theistic reasons to be moral differ from what desirism would say?
  3. Is there a reasonable way to formulate Pascal’s wager? Doesn’t a little evidence tip the scales?
  4. What is a good explanation for value?
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