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Morality Requires God - Morality Requires God or Does It by...

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Morality Requires God ... or Does It? by Theodore Schick, Jr. The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine , Volume 17, Number 3. Although Plato demonstrated the logical independence of God and morality over 2,000 years ago in the Euthyphro , the belief that morality requires God remains a widely held moral maxim. In particular, it serves as the basic assumption of the Christian fundamentalist's social theory. Fundamentalists claim that all of society's ills - everything from AIDS to out-of-wedlock pregnancies - are the result of a breakdown in morality and that this breakdown is due to a decline in the belief of God. Although many fundamentalists trace the beginning of this decline to the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species in 1859, others trace it to the Supreme Court's 1963 decision banning prayer in the classroom. In an attempt to neutralize these purported sources of moral decay, fundamentalists across America are seeking to restore belief in God by promoting the teaching of creationism and school prayer. The belief that morality requires God is not limited to theists, however. Many atheists subscribe to it as well. The existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, for example, says that "If God is dead, everything is permitted." In other words, if there is no supreme being to lay down the moral law, each individual is free to do as he or she pleases. Without a divine lawgiver, there can be no universal moral law. The view that God creates the moral law is often called the "Divine Command Theory of Ethics." According to this view, what makes an action right is that God wills it to be done. That an agnostic should find this theory suspect is obvious, for, if one doesn't believe in God or if one is unsure which God is the true God, being told that one must do as God commands will not help one solve any moral dilemmas. What is not so obvious is that theists should find this theory suspect, too, for it is inconsistent with a belief in God. The upshot is that both the fundamentalists and the existentialists are mistaken about what morality requires. The Arbitrary Lawgiver To better understand the import of the Divine Command Theory, consider the following tale. It seems that, when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, his followers asked him what they revealed about how they should live their lives. Moses told them, "I have some good news and some bad news." "Give us the good news first," they said.
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"Well, the good news," Moses responded, "is that he kept the number of commandments down to ten." "Okay, what's the bad news?" they inquired.
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