Morality as Evidence of God

By Zia H Shah

And He (Allah) revealed to it (conscience) the ways of evil and the ways of righteousness – He, indeed, prospers who purifies it (conscience), And he is ruined who corrupts it. (Al Quran 91:9-11)

The characters in Shakespeare drama Macbeth are based on real life historical figures. Macbeth thought that if he could be the king he would be really happy. But, when he had killed the king who had been kind and generous to him, he was filled with horror. It was not the horror of one who fears discovery. When he heard one of the men awaken from sleep and say, “God bless us,” he could not say “Amen;” for his vivid imagination presented to him the dryness and choking of his throat as an immediate judgment from heaven. He heard a voice that first cried “Macbeth has murdered sleep,” then, a minute later, denounced him in his three names, as if the three names gave him three personalities to suffer in the doom of sleeplessness:

Glamis had murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor

Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.

The severity of his crime, jolted Macbeth in a dramatic fashion. However, more often than not, when we cheat someone or lie for some reason, we are invariably able to rationalize it, so the short coming generally gets unnoticed by our conscience and consciousness. However, when someone else double crosses or cheats us we get upset, angry and even mad at times. We think that it was wrong for anyone to cheat or deceive us. Why should we get mad if everyone is working to advance oneself one way or the other? When on the receiving end we clearly feel that humans are supposed to be moral. We are not supposed to cheat, lie or say things which we do not mean! What is the basis of our intuition about morality and human ethics?

To argue against the slippery slope of relativism, apologists for theism, have lately precisely defined objective moral values. What are the objective moral values? Neil Shenvi has encapsulated it for us, borrowing from different philosophers, especially Prof. William Lane Craig:

Objective moral values are moral values that are true independent of the belief of human beings. For this reason, philosophers who affirm the existence of objective moral values sometimes speak about them as moral facts. A purported fact can either be true or false, but it is qualitatively different than an opinion, which is a matter of personal preference. So when we say that objective moral values exist, we mean that a statement like, “Murder is evil,” is making a claim about some objective moral reality in precisely the same way that the statement, “There is a chair in my kitchen,” is making a claim about objective physical reality. In contrast, a moral relativist claims that a statement like, “murder is evil,” is a subjective claim about our (or our society’s) preference. The statement, “murder is evil,” expresses a subjective preference similar to the statements, “curry is tasty,” or, “bluegrass is the best musical genre.” If obje ctive moral values exist, then statements like, “the Holocaust was evil,” can be objectively true. If objective moral values exist, then this statement would be true even if the Nazis had won World War II and had convinced every human being in the entire world that the Holocaust was good. In contrast, the position of moral relativism commits one to the proposition that moral statements like, “the Holocaust was evil,” are subjective. If some person or some society, like Nazi Germany, believes that the Holocaust was good, then the Holocaust would indeed be good “for them”. There would be no objective moral standard to which their assessment could be compared.[1]

Because we all feel a strong abhorrence against rape, incest, holocaust and even against smaller crimes when we personally are the victims, there are objective moral values and therefore there is a Law-Giver, a God. If there is no God and we accidentally arose out of animals similar to chimpanzees, then there is no clear cut reason to believe that the jungle law is not the ultimate reality. As a believer in both evolution as well as revelation, I think that our conscience has roots both in our evolution as well as revelations over the millennia to the Prophet of God by All-Knowing God. Our conscience cannot be explained if we take revelation out of the picture and try to explain it purely on the basis of naturalism or scientific materialism.

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. I hope to get a reply from you. well how can u assert that morality is from God and that our sense of morality at the base is very different from animals. what is moral? let us take an example, helping others or altruism may be considered moral, well altruism is present in animals. And here u are giving the golden example that there is some objective moral sense in all of us then let me give u another picture. if killing is so wrong why it seems so natural even glorified when we kill an enemy whether in war or not. why it doesn’t stir our empathy when we kill members of others species. why killing gets automatically justified when something is a part of our food chain. where is that objective moral sense then. and how about all these child soldiers, the ruthless killing machines, in africa; where is there sense of objective morality. why dn’t children have a the so called conscience or sense or of objective morality you are referring to. the murder of sylvia lickens is a case in point. what about earlier times when people brutally killed people of other race clan or nation with absolute joy and it was a kind of a sport, what about gladiators there people were basically enjoying people getting killed where was the revealed morality then and even if revealed morality was there, why didn’t it dictate the morality of our masses. And what about these religious fanatics, religion does truly inspires them to commit all those atrocities against people with difference of opinion. and what about there sense of objective morality, and what about suicide bombers. well i dnt think there is anything as absolute objective morality but there definitly is a moral sense in all of us whether it be flawed or normal bt there is a moral sense in all of us and that basically comes from the society and the era u are living in combined with ur personal beliefs bt most importantly the society. I hope u upload my comment and answer it too because an educated mind doesn’t run from criticism it accepts it and tries to think about it or try to answer it,

    1. Dear Omar,

      First of all, for a fuller discussion on the topic of morality, this book is amazing: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

      Thanks for posting on the blog and of course we post all comments on our blog. You raise an interesting point – that if murder is an objectively evil thing, why do so many people (and you have listed examples) do it?

      The first point you raise is that animals also show altruism and this is a moral state. This is not true. The mistake you are falling into is that you are not differentiating between the natural/animal state and the moral state. The natural/animal state of man is the state in which we are moved to do things in accordance with our physical needs, without (and this is the crucial point) – WITHOUT the aid or use of the faculty of reasoning. Take for example a cow which is docile and meek and quiet. Nobody could say that a cow has the moral quality of gentleness or meekness, because the cow’s meekness is not as a result of reasoned thinking or a decision, rather it has the appearance of gentleness on account of its natural nature, determined by its genes. Similarly, you can’t call a tiger or a lion ill-mannered and evil because it kills other creatures, because again it is acting only under the impulse of its natural state and has no capability to exercise its reasoning to overpower its natural state.

      Humans can be moral by virtue of the fact that we can reason what is best for us and the action that proceeds from the reasoning will be deemed moral. If for example person X unintentionally offends person Y, if person Y does not use their faculty of reasoning, they may, under the impulse of their natural/animal state, hit person X and thus commit an immoral act, ie: immorality is born when humans, who HAVE the faculty of reasoning, do not use it. If person Y used their faculty of reasoning and thought “hold on, this offence was unintentional and I need not get angry” then his response would be forgiveness – which in this case would be a moral act, having proceeded from reasoning. I hope that it is clear now the difference between the APPEARANCE of altruism in animals seeming to be a moral condition (while it is not, as they are not using their faculty of reasoning but are acting under the impulse of their natural condition) and the actual use of reasoning in humans resulting in moral altruism.

      The second point you raise, which is basically many different examples of people killing each other is not valid, in my opinion. You have raised each of them saying “why do people do this – if they knew it was wrong, due to an inbuilt moral compass (moral objectivity), why would they do it?” The reason for this is that they commit these acts in DEFIANCE of their moral objectivity, which tells them they are doing something wrong. Now what is the proof of this? The proofs are three-fold, as far as I can see (the first one having been mentioned in the article):

      1) When a person commits an evil, eg: a serial robber who mugs people all day and night. When he HIMSELF is mugged or robbed, he feels aggrieved and feels like an injustice has been done to him. In other words, when he is on the receiving end of this evil, he knows it to be an evil, but when he commits this evil, he convinces himself that he is justified in being a robber. Thus his sense of moral injustice, though clouded by his own reasoning when he commits the act, is very much present and alive when the act is committed upon him.

      2) People in the examples you have given often commit murders and afterwards feel such immense shame and guilt that they commit suicide. In all of the examples you have given, people have suffered extreme mental torture for things they have done. Just look at the suicide rate among the American soldiers returning from Vietnam -the Vietnam Veterans and look at their rate of mental illnesses.

      3) One would expect that if morality was entirely subjective to your country and Age and race, then there would be at least one civilisation in which robbery or murder was seen as a good deed. Indeed, there are civilisations that endorsed the murders of OTHER nations and OTHER races, but that is because they often viewed those other races and nations as sub-human and not on their same level. But there is no civilisation on earth that has ever endorsed the murder of their own people as a good deed. This is a universal testimony that cannot be refuted.

  2. it is good to see a reply :). well the thing is u didn’t answer 2 of my basic arguments;
    1. why is there no moral compass in children- i stated the example of african child soldiers.
    2. how would u justify moral compass of a religiously motivated fanatic. he is absolutely sure of doing the right that he spares no one and shows not a little bit of doubt. he doesn’t have little doubt that he is doing anything wrong. not slightest of doubts no defiance.

    NOW coming to ur reply:
    in the first paragraph u said humans are moral beings just coz they have the ability to reason things out and find out what is right and wrong but doesn’t this go against inbuilt moral compass. if something is reasoned out then it sure has the influence of society and environment and person’s personal state of mind e.g a delusional or a fanatic can commit some very serious atrocities.
    1. another thing u said animals show altruism becoz its innate they have no sense of what they are doing. btw humans aren’t very different when it comes to kinship or altruism. they don’t show altruism out of rationale or reasoning. they show it coz of the instinctive behavior and it is something that is really prevalent in humans something that is unavoidable something we cann’t help but doing it.
    2. secondly it is fair enough to say that animals do have the sense of reasoning, no matter how primitive. the higher u move up the ladder the intelligence increases. chimps dolphins rats squids octupus and many other animals especially primates show the ever diverse ability to compute calculate things in various situation through their faculty of reasoning. well u could argue one point that we are aware when we are doing good. i agree on that point animals might not be as much aware of the good they are doing as we are. bt they still are aware of things and can certainly reason tho much less than us.
    3. ur last argument again something i can’t agree on. well the thing is robbery is something that is not an evolutionarily stable state. why becoz it simply means too much wastage of resources and ultimately leads to worsen the species overall survival chances. now the question arises how? suppose there was a population in which everybody was a robber. in that community the best way to survive would be to rob ur neighbor before he robs ur house or robs u. ( well u could say i m getting too carried away with this concept, bt i am not actually. i will give u this exact example in context with human history too. just bear with me here) because if u didnt rob his house he will eventually rob u and u will be at a loss as u loose important belongings and u could not survive in harsh conditions. so what would happen in that society? everybody will rob his neighbor whenever he gets a chance. now u could raise a point that everybody might well be surviving equally coz everything is getting neutralised in the end as everybody is being robbed bt the thing is when one is getting robbed of his important essentials, he will put a fight. so both will have to fight for the prize. how badly the loser gets damaged depends on the belongings being robbed and the situation or condition of the surroundings. well the thing is most of the times there is possibility that loser might end up either badly damaged or dead if belongings are essential for his survival. what will happen that over a period of time fewer individuals will prosper or progress as many of weaker ones are perished or severely injured at the hands of the fitter ones. this will lead to over all less benefit of that society as more individuals are dying or faring badly. this exactly was the kind of condition that was prevalent in hunters in the early times of man. the hunters acted on this same strategy, not exactly bt similar strategy. what happened in those times was that whenever another hunter came into the shack of the other hunter. both will point weapons at each other. the first person doesnt really want to kill the 2nd person bt 1st person knows that if he doesnt kill 1st, 2nd one will killl him. similar kind of thought pattern is in the mind of the 1st person. so they shoot or attack preemptively. both want to avoid the situation bt both can’t. so this leads to the overall more damage of that society. so with passage of time man or humans realised to change that. so what i am saying is that ur 3rd is argument is essentially flawed.
    the thing is robbery or murder is not universally accepted no where not becoz we have some moral compass it is only becoz we might have tried it already and we have learnt better. i mean we have realised that it a society where majority perishes so we aborted it. we left it not becoz of some moral compass bt just becoz of our selfish reasons.

Discuss

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s