Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Is morality mere illusion?’

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Published: Thursday, March 13 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

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Far East USA, SC

If you found a remote island that had a population that never had contact with anyone off of the island, they would most likely have rules to live by.

Most likely, killing would be wrong (possibly with exceptions). Taking things that belong to others would probably also be frowned upon.

Are these morals? Is this religion? Or are they common threads necessary to live among others?

It would not be surprising if they had some sort of "religion" as humans have shown a need to explain the unexplainable. And they would have been instituted by someone (probably a man) who claimed superior knowledge which distinguished them from the others.

I sincerely do not understand how someone can be an Atheist. Nor do I believe those who claim irrefutable knowledge of a supreme being.

There has to be some doubt in both of these groups, although most cant bring themselves to admit it.

Why is that? What is wrong with just acknowledging that we don't know? Possibly, because "some man who claimed superior knowledge" told us so.

Which is almost a universal theme in religion.

Midwest City, USA, OK

This is absolutely true. Moral absolutes exist, and no one truly and fully disagrees-even people who completely insist that morality is a human construct and illusion still advance certain ideas or ways of thought as principally "good" or "bad". Most notably, belief in absolute good and bad is often itself "bad" to people who otherwise profess that absolute good and bad don't exist.

This is something I've thought about recently as I've studied, among other things, the US Constitution, though I won't derail the core topic by going into detail.

Somewhere in Time, UT

If there is no God, there is no right or wrong. The only imperative that exists is to do whatever is necessary to survive or satisfy one's own desires. No other justification is necessary other than to do whatever one wants in order to satisfy ones own needs or wants. There is nothing more.

Ah, but you see, God does exist and the Light of Christ exists in all of us. It is that light that informs all of us that right and wrong do exist. There are those who will chose to ignore this light and commit evil. But that light exists in all of us.

Buena Vista, VA

When I was a graduate student (biology) a fellow grad student and I had a discussion on this. I am LDS, and he is atheist. I said that if there was no God, and if all we are is a bag of chemicals, and our consciousness was nothing more than physical electrical impulses, and after death there was nothing left of us, then there was no right nor wrong. Even murder isn't wrong, since we are just machines and our consciousness is just an illusion. He disagreed; he said there is still right and wrong. In that, I believe he was being illogical, since his belief in morality contradicted his absolute atheism. In spite of his illogic, I still believe he did believe in right and wrong.

Brian Westley
St. Paul, MN

"While nonbelievers can obviously be good people, it's difficult to see on what basis they can justify their moral beliefs or criticize others who don't share them."

Religion-based morals are worse, as they can be completely arbitrary. Is polygamy moral? That depends entirely on what god(s) you believe exist, and what they happen to want.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"If there is no God, objective morality and moral obligations don't exist."

Of course moral obligations exist. Peterson begins with a faulty premise...that moral obligations don't exist unless one believes in a supernatural being.

Reason is man's basic means of survival and that which is essential to a rational being's survival is morality, not in the religious sense, but in a practical sense. It's precisely for the purpose of rational self-preservation that man needs a code of morality. Consequently, ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival, and a code of values accepted by choice rather than through religious compulsion is a code of morality...all necessary for survival without any intercession on the part of an indispensable supernatural being.

clearfield, UT

Athiest philosophers seem to be promoting an interesting argument that morality comes in the evolutionary genes as a means for survival of the species. The question then becomes, why is the human animal any different than all other species on Earth that could care less about another species survival? Plus, if we as Humans are nothing more than smart animals, why is our effect on the planet considered any more or less important than that of the rat, ant, or shark? If we make tools that either do good for our species or kill off the whole planet, isn't that just what evolution expected? No you say? Well, then why would the Human animal have the discernment and ability to modify its natural behavior? Something no other animal does. Answer, because we as Humans have been given a special ability to understand the world in ways nature alone could never have evolved. Anymore than nature alone could create an Apple computer. There is definately something "special" about our Human existance and that is where religion finds answers, and athiests remain perplexed.

Austin, TX

While I do not dispute that God does exist, I don't think your logic is correct.
If we accepted your reasoning, we might also say the following:

1. If I am overweight, then I do not exercise and eat well.
2. But I do exercise and eat well.
3. Therefore I am not overweight.

The first premise is dishonest because it suggests to the reader that being overweight correlates only with exercise and eating well. Of course, we know that there are other reasons for why I may be overweight.

Why do we need to use logical reasoning to convince ourselves that God exists? I struggled with this exercise for a long time, but ultimately I discovered that God's existence is self-evident. By that, I mean we do not have to piece together the physical evidence around us to prove that God exists. I know that Italy exists because I have seen it and experienced it. I know that God exists because I feel him. Sure, morality is evidence of God's existence, but it is no more a foundation for my knowledge of God than Pizza Hut is a foundation for my knowledge that Italy is a real place.

City, Ut

article-"But how did she know them? It’s one thing to believe in moral principles; it’s quite another to be able to justify them, to give an account of their source. And this seems to me a particular problem for atheists."


My own Atheist tries hard to answer this but he himself as an Atheist cannot come up with a cogent reason.

City, Ut

Moral absolutes and morally correct ways of acting are part of the core being of who we are.

You can act against those unconscious, deep, core absolutes but you can not change them or submit they come from any other way or source.

Salt Lake City, UT

There is another aspect of this that I don't think was given light to. There seems to be something within a large number of people that automatically believes in treating others the way that we would like to be treated ourselves. And this is not an easy thing to judge. So, unless given reason to believe otherwise, I always assume that other people are basically good and I don't judge that based on what type of God they may or may not believe in.

Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT

Morality is objective to what one worships.
I believe in a higher power, however that higher power has extended me the prime directive of Star Trek.

Morals relative to religion gave us the Aztecs and their sincere belief in human sacrifice.
Morals relative to religion gave us the Spanish Inquisition and torture in God's name.
Morals relative to religion gave us 911
Morals relative to religion continue to give justification for all kinds of evil, because religion has a obscure scripture some where that can be used to relieve ones conscience from the "Natural Guilt" you would feel for say, murder, theft, rape.

Have Atheist's caused mass death and suffering? You bet, they just don't blame or use a God to excuse their bad behavior.

1.96 Standard Deviations


You mentioned, "Nor do I believe those who claim irrefutable knowledge of a supreme being."

Why do you not believe someone can have irrefutable knowledge of a supreme being?

Does that include someone like Jesus? How about Adam or Eve? It is written they were in the presence of God at one point? How about other prophets like Enoch and Noah? It is written that they "walked with God." Or even Moses, who spoke face to face with God. In modern times, it is recorded that Joseph Smith spoke face to face with God, often in company with others such as Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery.

What evidence have you come across that no one has, or ever had, irrefutable knowledge of a supreme being? What evidence have you come across that this is not possible?

Sandy, UT

If Daniel Peterson does not believe in moral relativism, he should read the bible. There not been a consistent moral code in religion-- ever. Murder was allowed in the Old Testament, if God "allowed" or "commanded" it. The simple moral code seems to have always been this-- "If God says it, it is right." If you say that moral code is based on how God defines it, then I ask-- Whose God must we base that code upon and who is to say what that specific God's opinion is? Not that I agree with Richard Dawkins in every manner, but he does have proof to back up his claims as to why humans act in a moral way. This is based upon scientific study and results. There is no proof backing the claim that everyone has "the light of Christ." No proof at all. Therefore, it is just a statement. That's all.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Morality is a vital component of a stable human society whether you believe in God or not. Beyond that, values of love, compassion, and caring or others speak to deeper human needs that we can’t always or easily find words for. This is at the root of the anthropology of religion. It naturally follows that man would collectively or even individually attempt to codify a morality system for the common welfare of all. We’re all in this together.

It’s when man attempts to project tribal systems of morality onto an abstract entity he calls God, that he is venturing into the unknown. That’s why religion, while well-intended, inveriably erupts into human conflict

reno, NV

1.96 Standard Deviations

Joseph Smith's account of being visited by beings was reported by himself... There are many others of this day and age that claim the same types of visitations. Are we to believe all of those tales, with no proof whatsoever of this visit? The kicker is that the story wasn't told shortly after, it was told years later from when it supposedly happened. That is very telling.

Orem, Ut

I would note Dr. Peterson fails to credit E.O. Wilson as the co-author of the passage he credits to Ruse.

"Note: This column was inspired and influenced by essays by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan in William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds., 'God is Great, God is Good' (Downers Grove, IL, 2009)."

Actually, Dr. Peterson's column closely mirrors the essay in that book by Chad Meister titled "God, Evil and Morality." I don't see how it was "inspired and influenced" by Copan's essay, "Are Old Testament Laws Evil?" To follow the organization of Dr. Peterson's column:

Hepburn quotation: found on p. 117 of Meister's essay
Ruse quotation: found on pp. 115-16 of Meister's essay (Meister labels Ruse an "[e]volutionary ethicist and atheist philosopher of science" on 115)
"Robot vehicles" quotation from Dawkins: found on p. 112 of Meister's essay
"What natural selection favors" quotation from Dawkins: found on p. 116 of Meister's essay
"The universe that we observe" quotation from Dawkins: found on p. 116 n.25 of Meister's essay
Quotation from Romans 2:14-15: found on p. 110 of Meister's essay
Moral argument: page 18 of Craig's essay titled "Richard Dawkins on Arguments for God"

Mission Viejo, CA

Have you noticed that the religions who haven't been out trying to impose their version of morals through the rule of law aren't having to constantly "defend" their faith? That might be something to think about.

Many here have said it better than I, but some of us just don't need to crutch of religion to know how to treat people in the manner in which we'd like to be treated. And as mentioned before, religion gives people an excuse to not take ownership of their own actions. They just claim their following their religious principals, especially when their actions infringe on the freedoms and principles of others.

John Marx
Layton, UT

If have to agree with the poster "chinfat."

Daniel Peterson repeatedly refers to the existence of "objective morality." But I wouldn't really call it objective morality, it's more a matter of morality by divine decree or fiat. After all if we take the Old Testament literally then at times God commanded his people to commit genocide. Consider 1 Samuel 15:3 "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]."

clearfield, UT

Happy Valley Heretic

Interesting that you chose Star Trek, because I wonder if you would agree with Spock whose prime directive is "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?" If so then would you agree with the needs of the many (religious) outweigh the needs of the few (athiests)?

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