As we continue though Craig Biddle’s critique of religion found in his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, we are introduced to the concept of objective morality:
“Objective” means “fact-based.” For morality to be objective, it has to be based on a standard of value derived not from feelings, but from facts.
The notion of objective morality stands in contrast to various forms of subjectvism which have dominated much of human history. Biddle lists “religious subjectivism” among “secular subjectivism” and “personal subjectivism” as three variations of the same phenomenon. In this way, he connects the rhetoric and methods of the church, the Nazis, and hedonistic criminals.
This is how an argument for God always ends. One believes because one believes – which means: because one wants to. Religion is a doctrine based not on facts, but on feelings. Thus, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, religion is a form of subjectivism.
In light of this fact, it should come as no surprise that while secular subjectivism denies some of religion’s unproved, evidence-free claims, it demands and employs the very same methods – faith, mysticism, and dogma.
For instance, according to the Nazis, Hitler’s will determined the truth…
Believers may scoff at the comparison. Yet consider the foundation upon which it is built.
Biddle begins with the basic laws of nature:
… The law of identity is the self-evident truth that everything is something specific; everything has properties that make it what it is; everything has a nature. A thing is what it is. (A rose is a rose.) The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action: A thing can act only in accordance with its nature. (A rose can bloom; it cannot speak.)
Insofar as our thinking is in accordance with the laws of identity and causality, our thinking is in accordance with reality; insofar as it is not, it is not. Our method for checking our ideas against the facts is logic: the method of non-contradictory identification.
The basic law of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which is the law of identity in negative form: A thing cannot be both what it is and what it is not at the same time and in the same respect. (A rose cannot simultaneously be a non-rose.)
Biddle argues that religion requires believers to ignore these basic laws of nature, to be illogical. In response to the religious assertion that God exists outside of creation, Biddle asks:
How can anyone know anything about that which is “not an aspect of nature” or “greater than the universe” or “beyond our sensory abilities”? Nature is all there is; the universe is the totality of it; and our senses are our only source of information. In other words, such “knowledge” would require understanding of a non-thing from a non-place by means of non-sense.
Biddle thus summarizes the Objectivist epistemology. We can only know what we can perceive. Since we can’t perceive anything beyond nature, we can make no rational claim to know of the supernatural. We can only feel as though God exists, or believe in Him because we believe in Him.
Is that accurate? Does your faith, if you are a believer, stand in defiance of logic and objectivity?
Religious belief can, and in many cases does, stand in defiance of logic and objectivity. As Biddle points out, and as any moderately perceptive observer can verify, there are many religions with vastly different claims regarding the character and nature of God. They can’t all be right. Yet each claims devout, even fervent worshipers. Somebody is wrong despite their conviction.
For this entry in our series, let it suffice to say that belief in God’s existence does not inherently defy either logic or objectivity. This can be demonstrated by applying the very basic laws of nature which Biddle cites.
Our senses may be our only means of perceiving reality, but they do not determine reality. When Biddle defines nature as “all there is,” he presupposes that all which exists can be perceived. Yet no evidence backs up that assumption. Nor could it. The nature of epistemology, the theory of knowledge, speaks only to how we know what we know, not whether we know everything there is to know. The bounds of what does or does not exist are not set by epistemology.
To a man born blind, “all there is” can be perceived by his other four senses. Yet he doesn’t actually sense all there is. Color has no objective meaning to such a man. Yet color exists. We need probe no further to demonstrate that “all there is” may exceed the limits of our senses.
Beyond that, and despite Biddle’s assertion to the contrary, there is objective evidence for the existence of God. That evidence is creation. We’re here. The universe is here. Rational consideration of our existence points to an unseen Cause, much as rational consideration of a distant star’s wobble points to unseen planets or black holes.
As Biddle points out, a thing is whatever it is and cannot act in defiance of its nature. One attribute of the universe is its atrophy. The universe is dying. Eventually, unless acted upon by an outside force, the whole of creation will wither, cool, and stop. So how did it get started in the first place? Biddle mocks the idea of a bush that speaks (which is not the claim; the claim is that God spoke), yet accepts as self-evident that a dying universe somehow came to live in the first place.
Objectively, according to every scientific fact of reality we know, something cannot come from nothing. Life cannot come from non-life. Movement cannot proceed spontaneously from non-movement.
Therefore, logically, something must exist beyond creation which produced it. Such a Cause would necessarily have its own particular nature. It would have to be eternal, having no cause of its own, nor any atrophy toward its demise. It would have to be more than an “it,” a person with an intelligence and a will. This person would need to possess all power, all knowledge, and exist unbound by space and time. Logically, deduced through objective observation of creation, God exists.
That only gets us to the most general claim of religion though. Which god are we talking about? Jesus? Buddha? Allah? The Force? Cthulhu? As we continue in this series, we’ll apply Biddle’s methods and observations to answer that, too.