Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Transcendent Morality - Part II

As you last recall….
Two Catholic Men dissected a video that explained how morality should not be based upon any sacred text or other divine or religious authority; it should be based upon things like: Improved Education, Valid Reasons, Relevant Differences, Sufficient Justification and of course the all-important, “Doing what is right and not what we are told to do”. But there are no details provided on exactly who will determine these things and how.

There is mention of science, but science does not give us morality. Show us the scientific data or formula that proves murder is wrong, or stealing, or rape, or racism. What scientist discovered it? Are all people really created equal? Isn’t there data to show that some are stronger and smarter than others? Doesn’t this data prove scientifically that some people are superior to others? How about a more frequently debated topic? Doesn’t the study of evolution teach us that homosexuality is “wrong” in terms of propagating a species? Shouldn’t it be seen as a kind of “defect” in scientific terms?

G.K. Chesterton says that science can only be used either as a tool or as a toy. As a tool, it helps us live better lives, like understanding electricity or development of medicine. As a toy, it helps develop things that are interesting or entertaining, like a video game.

Science comments only on physical reality, not spiritual reality. The Catholic world view includes both the physical & the spiritual. Catholics will speak of physical laws that are universal & unchangeable and spiritual laws that are just as universal & just as unchangeable (Catholic means universal by the way; Greek word katholikos). Morality stems from the spiritual laws. One can act morally without knowing God, but there is no morality without the existence of God, since God is ultimately the first cause of every part of reality, whether it is something spiritual or physical.
Any atheist should have no problem with the existence of physical laws (like the law of gravity), but would they not regard spiritual reality or spiritual laws as only delusory opinions? If so, the following logic should flow nicely:

  1. Spiritual laws (moral law/natural law/divine law) are only man-made “concepts”.
  1. Concepts are like opinions; thoughts in the mind. 

  1. Thoughts in the mind are electrochemical impulses that have evolved over millions of years to help us survive.
  1. The electrochemical impulses in one person’s brain can be different than another’s. For instance, the mind of Adolf Hitler was different than the mind of Mother Teresa; not good or evil, just different. This gives me a great idea for a new book! Check it out!!!
  1. There is nothing above the human mind to judge what is moral or not; no “outside system”.

  1. Therefore…..there can be no objective morality that applies to everyone. (I honestly did not plan this to be six points…weird how that happens. The number six is always interesting from a biblical perspective.)
So what can we conclude if we believe the six points above? How can we be “moral”? Well, a civilized society can vote and make human laws about what the majority thinks is right or wrong, but right & wrong do not exist in and of themselves….ONLY opinions.

It seems that too many people (including some Catholics) want their cake and eat it too. They want objective morality, but no source for it outside the human mind. This backs you into an intellectual corner. What they agree with is spoken of in objective terms, like saying every woman has a right an abortion; abortion rights are not something “relative”. What they disagree with is spoken of in relative terms, like saying every unborn child has the right to life; this would be only an opinion relative to those who believe it.

There is actually no need to appeal to scripture or any religious authority for these types of basic discussions that go back to the Greek Stoics. One needs only reason and the fact that science cannot answer questions about morality or meaning, only "how" questions. Galileo hinted at this when he said, "Religion tells us how to go to heaven; science tells us how the heavens go." Indeed to get “the heavens” at all, you need something outside the universe to do it, something outside the system, outside of space & time, something that needs nothing for its own existence, something out of this world. Need a word for that?  "Transcendent."  Nice.

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