The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Qaz' official review Religion and Morality

A couple weeks ago I posted a review in the book thread. Here is my updated review.

Sagi and Statman seem to refute divine command morality (DCM). According to them DCM’s fatal flaw is arbitrariness. If the immorality of torturing someone for fun has nothing to do with the physical pain it causes or the debasement of the victim, but everything to do with God happening to decide that it’s wrong, then morality is arbitrary. The authors point out that appealing to God’s love as a means of rescuing DCM doesn’t work; if love is what matters, why do we need God to determine torture for fun is wrong for it to be wrong? If love is what matters, why not appeal directly to love? DCM that ties the morality of divine commands to God’s love essentially makes God an unnecessary middleman on questions of morality. What they say is intuitively appealing, until you think about it in the context of the book and state of metaethics as a whole.

Sagi and Statman seem to be moral realists. On p 36 they write there is no possible world where torturing people for fun is not immoral. They recapitulate on p 55 and add murder as an inconceivably not immoral action. Okay, but how do they know this? Sagi and Statman do not provide a robust metaethical realist theory of their own. Perhaps their metaethical theory suffers an arbitrariness problem just like DCM, if not worse.

On p 40 the authors say that if an act is right because God wants it, this would contradict the notion of God’s perfection. This seems to presuppose that acting based on mind-independent (even independent of God’s mind) truths is morally better than sovereingly deciding truths. But if the authors are presupposing this, they’re simply begging the question.

Non-DCM moral realists have serious arbitrariness problems of their own. Given the weakness of non-DCM moral realist arguments, perhaps the following argument isn’t so bad after all: Since God created humans, he can decide how we ought to act and be treated. This of course has implications I find extremely unpalatable (e.g. God could morally torture people for eternity), but until a moral realist can explain why my intuition that certain things are inherently wrong (that is, wrong regardless of God’s decisions) is objectively correct, there’s no good reason to actually believe that they are.