Divine command theory: Are you fucking kidding me?!?

I just read the most maddening, illogical, and vapid attempt at a legitimate treatment on the source of moral action. It is by a theist nit-wit named Janine Marie Idziak. I won’t go into all of the reasons why it was a terrible treatment on the subject, but I will give you the gist and the highlights… and of course my thoughts.

Idziak is an advocate of the Divine Command Theory (DCT) as the source of all morality. In it, she advances that human beings are encouraged to perform certain acts that are moral, and we are prohibited from performing acts that are said to be immoral – both based on communication from god. Further, aside from our commands to perform, or refrain, from certain things, the actual ethical values of the actions themselves are determined by god and his will.

The most “plausible” reason to accept the DCT as advanced by Idziak is taken from a quote by Robert Merrihew Adams, wherein he claims, “If our supreme commitment in life is to doing what is right just because it is right, and if what is right is right just because God wills or commands it, then surely our highest allegiance is to God.” The logic here is straightforward; things are morally good or bad based on the designation assigned to those actions by God. Therefore, if we desire to do things (or refrain from them) then we are actually doing things in the service of God’s will, not any intrinsic value of morality independent of god. This view utilizes, ironically, our own human nature and a sense of obligation to justify our subscription to a certain moral construct. To illustrate, think about your boss. Your boss is generally a dick, you don’t know him very well, and you certainly don’t see him often, or perhaps ever. However, your dick boss does employ you, and as a result, you are able to buy yourself the necessities of life, and hopefully, some fun extras. You have no personal allegiance to Mr. Dickboss, but the very notion that he is your boss causes you to obey him, and endeavor to accomplish the tasks assigned to you. In this analogy, God is Mr. Dickboss. You have never seen the guy, but for the same reason that you obey, or perhaps even aim to please, your superior is because of the mere fact that he is your superior. Somehow, it is incumbent upon us to obey our gods and bosses; perhaps this is a divine plan for the universe, or perhaps it is an inherent flaw in our psyche as humans. Either way, this appeal, in my opinion, has the greatest chance at making DCT plausible.

Seeing that all of the other efforts to support DCT failed on this author’s view, we’ll just examine the quaintest attempt at logic by a theist of this tradition. Idziak is clearly a Western-theist, so the Judeo-Christian attributes for god are irrefutable, and the Bible is a testament to those attributes. In addition to gods perfect goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, his will is connected to his perfect, immaculate reason, that is, that god automatically thinks everything through to its fully logical end that entails the maximally beneficent outcome whenever he wills anything. This is necessarily the case; otherwise god couldn’t be infallible, right? Right. So now that we have brushed up on all the reasons that god should be the source of all things perfectly good and moral, let’s examine the facts.

Do you think overtly feminine gay dudes are hilarious, as they definitely are most of the time? Well that sucks for you, because in Leviticus 20:13 God commands the murder of homosexuals. Ever stub your toe at night or miss the nail and smash the hell out of your finger instead? Sure. Ever say “god damn it!” right afterwards? Well your day is about to get a lot worse, because Leviticus 24:14-16 commands that the community take you out and stone you to death. What if, say, I’m Jewish, and you are Mormon? According to Deuteronomy 17:2-7, god says I’m supposed to kill you; and if the whole city is predominantly some religion other Jewish, then Deut. 13:12-15 commands me to destroy the whole city, despoil it for whatever I can (women and children included), and kill every living thing in it, including the little puppies and kitties and hamsters, because every last one of you are evil fuckers who need to die. It gets worse; while I am killing you and your puppy, if I happen to notice your attractive virgin sister or daughter, I am fully permitted in capturing her and using her body to fulfill my carnal desires (Numbers 31:18). Let’s also not forget the massive genocide of, presumably, the entire planet except Noah and his family (Genesis 6 and 7). The list goes on ad nauseum…

At any rate, the reason why it is fully absurd to believe that morality comes from the divine will and command of god is because all of the things that I just mentioned; those horrific, abhorrent acts of violence, and moral vapidity are all commands from god. Even we human beings with our finite mental capacity and “slow on the uptake” moral evolution of even our most enlightened cultures know that all of those things are wrong. Why then would god command such terrible, immoral acts? The theist, or supporter of DCT, would have you believe that none of those things were, in fact, immoral on the singular grounds that because god commanded it, it was right. Forgive me for oversimplifying, but a man named Aristotle posited that “A is A,” which is true even now. If god is infallible, and his laws are perfect and timeless, then a thing cannot be moral now and terribly immoral 3,000 years from now. It’s a contradiction in terms, and therefore it cannot stand. God’s laws must necessarily be perfect from the moment of their command to the end of time, otherwise god’s laws are imperfect, and as such, god can be no source for moral value assignments.

Tell me, after reading that god condones rape, murder, theft, genocide, and slavery in the pages of his own book, what do you think is the justification employed by Idziak when she says this:

“It is likewise incorrect to portray an ethics of divine commands as entailing that intuitively abhorrent acts could be made the morally right thing to do by God. The beneficent and loving God who does the commanding would simply not give such commands.”-Janine Marie Idziak, Divine Commands are the Foundation of Morality

Yours in contemplation,

Kierkegaard

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About facedownphilosophy

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7 Responses to Divine command theory: Are you fucking kidding me?!?

  1. This is why all religious conceptions of whatever God may be are irreparably and dangerously flawed. God may exist, but that doesn’t mean he cares, and in the extreme case that those both are true, I’m sure that my beer and football fueled sabbaths are less disconcerting to Him than Ms. Idziak’s financial exploitation of what’s readily recognizable as an incredibly gullible, built-in audience in the christian sect, with her book’s blatant disregard for logic or allowance for independent thought and her certainly less than comprehensive understanding of Him.

  2. Well, what we can’t do is speculate about her intentions. She may be a very sincere theist who is trying to help others, but clearly those others are not all of the same rational endowment, and as such will be less-than-convinced based on her specious reasoning.

  3. Fair enough. My instinct is to shout down and vilify theists in general.

    • It certainly is, but remember that it is my goal to merely find that which possesses the most truth. Still, hyperbole is usually pretty funny in the context of making fun of people based on their views…

  4. Socrates says:

    I disagree that there is any argument sufficient for defending DCT. Apart from the circularity problem, it’s concerning that we should let a FAITH BASED being determine what we should and should not do. It seems safer and wiser to use our magnificent brains and reason it out on our own just in case it turns out we’re following the word of a flawed and apparently sadistic human. DCT depends on people first accepting that God exists, but there are insufficient arguments for God’s existence. Ultimately, it always boils down to blind faith. So why not accept moral guidance from Santa Clause, tooth fairies, dragons (supposedly they’re very wise), et cetera. What’s the difference between these and God? At least tooth fairies never ask you to kill your children.

  5. whitefrozen says:

    Divine Command Theory makes perfect sense – if you accept some of the underlying metaphysics of the idea, namely those put forward by William of Occam. I, however, do not.

    Although, it seems to me that if one is going to accept DCT, the best thing to do is to simply do what Occam did and say ‘Whatever God says is what’s moral, and that means God could tell you to murder a baby and it would be right. Don’t like it? Tough shit. God is God and you’re not.’ I don’t like how DC theorists try to make it sound like something other than it is – morality based on the brute power and will of God.

    • Point emphatically well taken. Of course, we must then worry about prima facie morally conflicting scenarios that are part and parcel of DCT. Not to mention that we, then, must call in to question God’s omnibenevolence, which I have no problem doing, per se, but I am unwilling to do that on account of DCT.

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