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"But the problem is that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it.

There's not more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the
objective reality of the physical world."1

Locating objective morality in any of the books of the Old Testament is arduous at best.
Despite the supposedly absolute commandment "Thou shalt not kill", Yahweh butchered
70,000 men because David took a census,2 ordered the Israelites to kill the inhabitants of the
Promised Land,3 and commanded Saul to obliterate the Amalekites.4 The punishment of death
is to be administered to anyone guilty of picking up sticks on the sabbath,5 cursing their
parents,6 or being raped while betrothed.7 Babies are to be
cannibalised,8 drowned,9 sacrificed,10 and dashed against rocks.11

Apologists circumnavigate this moral incongruity by arguing that these are difficulties of
moral epistemology or semantics and are irrelevant to the ultimate source of objective
values. A supernatural moral ontology however faces the following dilemma.12 Does a god
approve of an act because it is good or is it good because a god approves of it? Does objective
morality exist independently of a divine creator or is it formulated by him or them?

That there are moral standards independent of a god's command was accepted by Socrates,
the Mu'tazilah school of Islamic scholarship, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas, and Leibniz. However,
if there are moral standards independent of that god's will then there is something over which
he is not sovereign. He did not establish morality but is held accountable to it and is thus not
omnipotent. That particular deity's goodness is not an innate part of his nature but is
contingent upon the extent to which he conforms to this independent criterion of "goodness"
and one must ask the question of whether through genocide, the advocation of rape, slavery,
and stoning, Yahweh has not fallen far short of this standard.

The alternative option was embraced by such thinkers as Martin Luther, John Calvin,
Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, William Lane Craig, and Islamic theologians Ash'arite and al-
Ghazali. They assert that something is good because their god approves of it. In answer to
why the Judeo-Christian god commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites, William
Lane Craig says the following:

"Since our moral duties are determined by God's command, it is commanding someone to do
something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was
morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God's command, even though, had they
undertaken it under their own initiative, it would have been wrong." 13

An act is, in itself, neither moral or immoral. Its virtuousness is determined by its accordance
with Yahweh's will. This, Craig argues, is why atheists are perfectly capable of living moral
lives, and why theists are capable of heinous immorality. The atheist has aligned himself with
the Christian god's approval accidentally and without his determination to do so, the theist
believes he is complying with his god's will but is mistaken.

If butchering the Canaanites was virtuous because it was willed by the Judeo-Christian god,
then morality is founded upon the subjective feelings of a Divine Creator. It is established
upon caprice. Any right action could have been wrong, if Yahweh had so decided. An action
that is virtuous today could become nefarious tomorrow. As Leibniz succinctly put it:

"what cause could one have to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite
different he would have done equally well?"14

If we define "good" as that which a god commands then attributing goodness to that god
himself is meaningless. If "good" is "whatever that god approves of" then to say "God is good"
asserts nothing besides "God approves of himself no matter what he does." Morality is based
not on an objective foundation but on a subjective whim where anything could be right or
wrong.

William Lane Craig argues that if naturalism is true, it becomes impossible to condemn war or
oppression on the one hand, and then argues that war and oppression is good when
commanded by a god on the other. A supernatural moral ontology renders only logical
absurdities and not objectivity. Either the god in question is not omnipotent and (quite
possibly) immoral, or morality is founded upon the subjective whim of that particular deity
and is relative to different situations and civilisations. Many religious people would not put to
death apostates, those who work on the Sabbath, children for cursing their parents, or
betrothed women for being raped. Electing to follow some moral commandments while
ignoring others is not indicant of an objective morality.

Craig argues that the whole moral duty can be summed up by loving God and thy
neighbour.15 Indeed, in Leviticus it is written that:

"Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself."16

In other translations the people whom are not to be killed are rendered as "the sons of your
own people (Revised Standard Version) and "your countrymen" (Tanakh). The prohibition on
killing is limited to the people of Israel. In Deut 5:17 Abraham's god proclaims "Thou shalt not
kill" and fifteen chapters later in Deut 20:10 he commands the Israelites to sack a city, steal
their cattle, enslave those that surrender, rape the women who refuse and kill all the men.
Either the commandment is relative or Yahweh is forgetful.

If we entertain the possibility that the commandments were written by mortal men
attempting to survive in a cruel and barbaric world then the contradiction becomes clear. The
slaughter of whole populations was not Good because it was in accordance with their god's
will. It was advocated because it benefited the Israelites.

Morality evolved as mechanisms of increasing group cohesion and reducing vulnerability by


behavioural modification or restrain.17 The desire to be moral -- to be accepted by the group -
- is an integral part of human nature. It is an evolved tendency like hunger, thirst, jealousy,
love and sexual desire. Morality is not absolute -- but it is objective because it transcends the
individual.18

Claiming that without a god there can be no morality is akin to saying that without a god
there can be no hunger. While there are differences of opinion with regard to what is
palatable, there is also a general agreement that certain things are not and so it is with
morality. Some actions are generally regarded as heinous, others are more culturally and
temporally relative.

Morality does not depend upon religion, the supernatural, holy texts or purported prophets
for its foundation. It was not created by us but genetically inherited and it is modified by the
temporal-cultural circumstances in which we find ourselves. Religion built upon these
naturally occurring sentiments by expanding the social scrutiny of individual behaviour to
include supernatural agents such as watchful gods, spirits and ancestors. 19 While specific
moral values are dispersed along a spectrum of objectivity, morality itself, the desire to be
moral, is objective. It is hard-wired into our nature through natural selection.

Theism fails, both ontologically and epistemologically, to sustain an objective morality. The
former results in logical incongruity and the latter's inadequacy is revealed by the moral
relativity within scripture and in its interpretations. Although morality is held up as a
tabernacle of a particular deity's essence, the moral instinct itself, when examined under the
cobwebs of dogma, indoctrination and disingenuous apologetics, is discovered where it has
always been -- it is located within our nature as social animals.