The Moral Argument (Axiological Argument)

By Ajit Krishna Dasa

An interesting and persuasive argument for the existence of God is The Moral Argument (also called The Axiological Argument. Axio means “value”). The argument can be presented as follows.

1. If God does not exist, absolute moral values do not exist.

2. Absolute moral values do exist.

3. Therefore God exist.

Defending premise one

Absolute moral values are values that exist objectively and are true for all human beings even if only some or none of us agrees to them, knows about their existence and even if it’s possible for us to act contrary to them. Some people claim that Gods existence is not a necessary condition for the existence of absolute moral values. They will hold that absolute moral values can exist independently of any personal being. It’s true that this is a logical possibility, but it runs contrary to our experience which constantly affirms that all moral values are contingent upon personal beings. Based on this experience we have the following inductive argument:

1. All observed values are contingent upon personal beings.

2. A is a value.

3. Therefore A is contingent upon a personal being.

Moving on from here, it’s obvious that fallible and limited human minds can’t establish absolute moral values. Since moral values are always contingent upon personal beings it seems likely that absolute values, if they exist, must be made by an absolute personal being with absolute power so that no other person can change or overrule this personal beings established moral values. If someone could they would not be absolute. Most atheists agree with this premise and therefore they have to reject the second premise in order to avoid the conclusion.

Defending premise two

Either absolute moral values exist or they do not exist. If they exist then moral absolutism is true and if they don’t then moral relativism is true. So either moral absolutism is true or moral relativism is true. They can not both be true. So if it’s possible to show that moral relativism is not true or unacceptable then we are left with moral absolutism. This is what I will do here. My argument will looks like this:

1. Either moral absolutism is true or moral relativism is true.

2. Moral relativism is not true.

3. Therefore moral absolutism is true.

Now, I will present four points–which might overlap each other–as to why it doesn’t make sense to accept moral relativism. And since moral absolutism is the only alternative to moral relativism it has to be accepted instead.

1. If moral relativism is true then it’s true that all actions are morally equal. So to be a moral relativist while, at the same time, hold a certain normative moral position (like, for example, claiming it’s morally unacceptable to be a moral absolutist) is first of all self-contradictory, because if all actions are equal then it can’t be better or worse to be a moral relativist than a moral absolutist.

2. But the fact is that no one is really able to live as if all actions are really morally equal. No one can stop making moral judgments and this, as shown above, only makes sense if absolute moral values exist. This means that it’s impossible to live as a consistent moral relativist.

3. All moral relativists hold moral positions and that makes them contradict reality as reality would look like if moral relativism were correct. The moral relativists moral philosophy will dictate “you ought to do A” and “you ought to refrain from doing B” while the objective reality would be that “there’s nothing you ought to do”. So if moral relativism is true and we want to live a philosophically consistent life we have to hold no normative moral position at all.

4. To really try to live according to moral relativism (to live as if every action is equal to every other action) will make us morally crippled monsters. At least in the eyes of the average person. We will, for example, not try to further or praise good deeds and stop or condemn bad deeds.

To make the case for moral absolutism even stronger I will present a 5th point which provides positive evidence for the existence of absolute moral values.

5. No one is born thinking that all moral actions are equal. We all have a moral intuition which tells us that something is really right and something is really wrong. We might ask ourselves if we have any reason to doubt this moral intuition? The Christian philosopher and theologian Dr. William Lane Craig answers this question in the following way:

…could anything be more obvious than that objective moral values do exist? There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world.” […] “The fact is that we do apprehend objective values, and we all know it. Actions like rape, torture, child abuse, and brutality are not just socially unacceptable behavior–they are moral abominations.” […] “By the same token, love, generosity, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good. People who fail to see this are just morally handicapped, and there is no reason to allow their impaired vision to call into question what we see clearly. [1]

Because we all, at least deep within ourselves, know that something is really right and that something is really wrong then very few moral relativists are really moral relativists if they are pressed with questions like “do you really think it’s true that pedophilia is not morally wrong?” or “do you really think it’s true that it’s not wrong to torture babies for fun?” To press them with questions like this will force them to choose between accepting an absolute and objective morality or be an irrational, morally crippled monster. No matter what they choose we, obviously, have won the debate.

Conclusion

The above points makes it clear that the prize one has to pay for adopting moral relativism is very high. One can only cling to moral relativism if one is willing to 1) think inconsistently 2) live inconsistently 3) contradict reality and 4) be a morally crippled monster. None of the above problems follows necessarily from moral absolutism, and since moral absolutism is the only possible alternative to moral relativism, we have to accept moral absolutism. And since God is the only reasonable foundation for absolute moral values we also have to accept the existence of God. Notes: [1] “The Indispensability of

[1] Theological Meta-ethical Foundations for Morality” by Dr. William Lane Craig (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html)

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