Philosopher Dan Fincke, on a recent Atheist Experience show, says that atheists ought to accept that morality is objective, just to attract theists. He says that there are “best” moral values. Says who? He’s taking his own personal opinions about morality and imposing it as a “best practice”, yet there are lots of people that would disagree. This is the same problem that Matt Dillahunty’s “Superiority of Secular Morality” has.
The issue with both is that they are absolutely not objective. I’ve posted the definition many times before, but there are a lot of atheists, typically liberal atheists, although I’m not sure if that fact has anything to do with the error or not, who seem to think they can come up with a personal “ideal” morality, then declare that anything that aims for that ideal must be objective. They ignore the fact that the ideal itself is not, by definition, objective because it required the human mind to invent it.
So let’s look at objectivity. Objectivity, by definition, requires that the proposition be outside of the human mind. The pull of gravity on Earth is objective. It is 9.8m/s^2. It is that for everyone regardless of their feelings on the matter. It is true of everyone that exists within a 1G gravity field. In fact, it’s not just true of people, it’s true of animals and rocks and anything that can find itself in that 1G field; it’s true of things which are incapable of having an opinion on the pull of gravity.
Now let’s look at morality and see if there is any form of morality which can exist beyond individual opinion. I think it’s clear, at least for anyone honest, that it’s simply not possible. Everyone who argues that morality can be objective seems to propose a set of standards which are entirely subjective. This is true of the non-religious and the religious alike. Both simply hold out an ideal that they cannot demonstrate as the only valid means of examining morality and I don’t buy into any of it. Take Christians, for instance, who even though they have their moral by-laws written down in black and white cannot agree which ones to follow and which ones are important. The same goes for Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus. None of them can come to the same conclusion even though they have what they claim is an utterly authoritative source sitting in front of them. Much the same goes for the atheists, while they have no single source of moral guidance, can’t agree on a single ideological standard either.
Morality is one of those subjects that people are not going to agree on and trying to stamp an “objective” label on it won’t help. It’s a subject that we ought to all talk about and try to come to some kind of common understanding, but that won’t happen if we, as people who ought to understand that it’s not an objective idea, try to make it one. I think it’s fundamentally dishonest to attempt to play it off as though it was objective, just to attract people who already think that it is. It’s no more honest for us, as atheists, to present morality that way than it was for early Christians to let pagans keep their ancient holidays and ideas, so long as they started giving their money and lip service to the Church. It would be like saying “we won’t talk about evolution anymore if you’ll just stop believing in gods”. The goal needs to be to bring everyone to reality, not to compromise reality to individual opinion. There should be one and only one standard and that is the factual acceptance of the world around us, no matter how it makes anyone feel. Science doesn’t change the mathematical pull of gravity because it makes someone uncomfortable. Reality is what actually is.
Isn’t it about time that rational people just started dealing with it?