Archive for nihilism

Further Thoughts on Ethics, Post Jesus

Posted in Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2008 by carriedthecross

When I was a Christian, I would oftentimes become frustrated while attempting to understand a moral sentiment put forth through biblical text.  Why in the world would God make absolute morality so ambiguous?  When Moses wrote, “thou shalt not kill,” did he mean “thou shalt not kill” or did he mean “thou shalt not kill without just cause?”  What about abortion? War? Poverty? At times a golden nugget in Scipture would pop out that seemed to make things clear, but there was always a level of ambivalence that I felt was never fully appreciated by the mass of Christianity.

Upon looking to my struggles through developing a proper hermeneutic of Scripture to find a moral system fair to the text, and the supposed author of the text, I cannot help but laugh.  Wading through the waters of religious dogma to discover an absolute morality seems so much easier than developing a moral system beyond a conception of a divine transcendent being which by necessity decrees certain actions “good” and certain actions “bad.”  When I left Christianity–in fact, in my preparation to leave Christianity, even–I recognized that I would somehow need to construct (or not construct, perhaps) a new moral system.

So where to begin? Well first I had to assess if in fact there was morality.  Without Christianity, is moral nihilism the path to go?  Or perhaps there is morality, but it is subjective.  Maybe there is still some sort of objective morality existing independent of humanity.  What a mess!  As I collected my thoughts and began to sift through the arguments and counter arguments, I found myself most convinced by the though of Spinoza (there is nothing that is inherently ‘good’ or ‘evil’), Hume (moral values simply correspond to our social engrained sentiments and passions) and more recently Bernard Williams (actions are described as “good” or “bad” not in a universal sense, but through individual passions and social construction).

In other words, no objective morality exists.  Continue reading

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Ethics, Post-Jesus

Posted in Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2008 by carriedthecross

One of the key issues I had to deal with while I was in the process of becoming more psychological amiable to the idea of embracing atheism was the question of morality without God. The issue of morality without God seems to have been beaten to death, and so I don’t want to discuss it per se, but I do want to put down some thoughts on morality that does not stem from objectivist religious authoritarian ethics.

The basic dichotomy seems to be between whether morality is objective (morality as an entity that exists in itself, a moral statement is objectively true whether anyone believes it or not) or subjective (morality is an entity that exists only in the mind, there is nothing beyond the moral opinions of persons that make normative judgments true).

As a Christian, the latter notion was frightening, and perhaps with good cause. As Ravi Zecharrias, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and other ‘Christian Generals’ would have their audience to believe, without God there is no way to develop morality without relying on personal whims. If morals are subjective, if the ‘goodness’ of an action depends on the acceptance of an individual or culture, than the Holocaust was logically moral from the perspective of citizens of Germany during the Third Reich. As a Christian, I was taught time and again that subjectivism leads inevitably to moral nihilism, the view that no moral values are better or worse than others and that there is no true ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’

Continue reading