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The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

Saturday, 26 April 2008 / Published in Articles / 7,267 views

By Ajita 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.

Defense for premise one

Absolute moral values are values that exist objectively and are true for all, even if only some or no one agrees to them, knows about their existence or can act contrary to them. Some will claim that the existence of absolute moral values doesn’t depend on the existence of God. Absolute moral values, they will claim, can exist independently of any personal being. It’s true that this is a logical possibility, but it runs contrary to our experience. Our experience constantly affirms that all moral values are contingent upon persons. It should be obvious that fallible and limited human minds can’t establish such 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 actually agree with this premise and therefore they have to reject the second premise in order to avoid the conclusion.

Defense for premise two

To defend this premise I will present the following points–which might overlap each other–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 relativist hold moral positions and that makes the moral relativist contradict reality as reality would look like if his philosophy were correct. The moral relativists philosophy will dictate “you ought to do X” and “you ought to refrain from doing Y” 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.

5. Deep down we all know that something is really right and something is really wrong and therefore 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 ok?” or “do you really think it’s true that it’s ok 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 a morally crippled monster. If after pressing the moral relativist with these questions the moral relativist still insists that nothing is really morally right and wrong then we simply have to invite him to take the time to once more really reflect very deeply about the question.

Conclusion

The prize one has to pay for adopting moral relativism is thus very high. One basically has to 1) think inconsistently 2) live inconsistently 3) contradict reality and 4) be a morally crippled monster. Thus any sane person will reject moral relativism. 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.

32 Responses to “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God”

  1. ccd says :

    The practical side (and part of the Argument itself) is that one who is immoral, will not accept it as a valid argument, as he will find very little use in morality as a criteria (as much as he will find it in health, economy or justice for example). For him this argument will be a way of religion to take away what he perceives a birth right to enjoy without restrictions.

    On the other hand, a person who is morally bound, will most likely be ‘religious’, so for him its not an Argument, but a confirmation.

    —-

    Yet again, even if every single ‘so called religious’ person was immoral, and even if most of atheists, being good Marxists or Maoists, were more moral and well behaved, still it will not convince me (knowing the motivations of the both camps, both materialistic) of non-existence of God. After all with all symptoms of kaliyuga, we will see more and more pseudo religion, so we should not necessary align with it, in fact both Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada never did and were successful in preaching.

  2. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    Dear Prabhu! Thanks for your feed back. I’m very attached to this argument which I’ve studied for quite some years. So I’m going to defend it. Hope you don’t mind.

    Your first point is that an immoral person will not care for this argument. If the person is in fact extremely immoral I think you’re right. However, most people are, fortunately, not that immoral and so the argument might persuade many–or at least make them reflect deeper about this and in due time push them in the right direction. I know from people who are presenting this argument to large groups of people that it’s the argument which has the biggest impact on people. And I know that you can really press atheists with it. If they have a little conscience they will usually start to feel very uncomfortable when challenged with it. And here I’m not just talking about the hardcore atheists but about all those people who are just not very concerned about religion and tend to believe in moral relativism.

    Your second point is that a person who is morally bound will usually be religious. I don’t think that’s true. I think religious people generally tend to be more morally inclined than atheists, and also that the morality of the religious people are more in line with “real” morality, Gods moral laws. But atheists usually have a strong opinion about morality. And this argument can show that if they are just a little morally inclined they are inconsistent.

    In your third point you open the discussion about “religious” people being immoral. But it’s important to remember that this argument doesn’t state that atheists are immoral and that religious people are moral. It doesn’t even state they can’t perceive what is actually good and bad. The argument deals only with the questions of whether or not it make sense for an atheist to bo moral and what the foundation for morality is. Even if atheists are moral they still have to explain what the foundation for their morality is and how it makes sense to be moral if atheism is true.

    We simply have to show that our argument is logically valid and that our premises are better than their negations. Then our argument is succesful, because it then shows theism to be the best explanation. And to be rational one has to adopt the best explanation.

  3. I do not want to nit pick (or maybe I do), but hopefully some more elaborate discussion help us better to apply this argument.

    I have always had a problem trying to convince intelligent “humanists” about this argument.

    I was impressed by Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” problem when I read The Brothers Karamazov when I was in college (H.H. Trivikrama Swami encouraged me when I read it). The basic idea is, I guess, that if there is no ultimate arbiter of what is good or evil, then anything goes.

    I have seen Christian writers make very thoughtful presentations of variations on this theme. (Recently I read one which started with the intriguing hook, “Many people think the existence of evil disproves the existence of God, but actually it does the opposite.”)

    I think, Ajita Krishna Prabhu, that your syllogism is logically faulty. That is, from a standpoint of pure logic, it does not follow from the premise “if not A then not B,” that “if B then A”. So, your first premise has to be something like, “If absolute moral values exist, then God exists”, or “Absolute moral values exist if and only if God exists.”

    To make the argument more persuasive to me, I would like to see a more full discussion of what is meant by “absolute moral values” and “moral relativism”. You have done a good job discussing them, but I am still not sure I understand.

    Of course hardly anyone would agree that “no behavior can be said to be wrong or bad, because morals values are completely dependent on one’s situation.” I doubt though, that people who identify themselves as “moral relativists” would take such extreme positions.

    Rather, the typical moral relativist might be more apt to observe that some things might be considered terribly wrong by people in one culture and perfectly acceptable in another, and they might go the next step of saying that the good traveler does as the Romans do when visiting Rome.

    Any follower of the Vedas would probably agree that some acts are acceptable for sudras but not for brahmanas or ksatriyas, and vice versa. Would that make them moral relativists?

    One thing we Vaisnavas can really contribute to the discussion of sin is the interaction of karma and bhakti. That is, we have an understanding that there is an impersonal regime of karma mimamsa where you will be precisely rewarded or punished by nature for your deeds, but that the path out of the whole trap is to surrender to God in devotional service.

  4. I am wrong about the logic. Ajita Krishna you were right. Please excuse me I am a foolish older person. :-)

    “If A then B” does mean, “If not B then A”

    And “not not A” means A

    So, “If not A then not B” does mean, “If not not B then not not A”, or “If B then A”

    When I took symbolic logic in college 27 years ago, we used to do long complicated formulas and prove difficult (or seemingly to us beginners) theorems. The above would have just been common sense and would have required no thought at all, like 2+2=4.

    But over all these years I have not used it and have become rusty.

    But what I am more interested in is discussing the meaning and validity of the premises, rather than the logical structure of the argument, which is clearly sound.

  5. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    Dear Akrunatha Prabhu! Thanks for your feed back. Let us work through this one step at the time.

    1) Is the argument valid?

    The argument is indeed logically valid. The formulation of the first premise is the “contrapositive” of “If A then B”. In other words if we know that “if A then B” then we also no that “if not B then not A”. Consider this example:

    If we know that it’s true that “if I press the button then the bomb explodes” then we also know that “If the bomb does not explode then I don’t press the button”. So if it’s true that “if absolute moral values exist then God exist” then we also know that “if God does not exist then absolute values do not exist.” These are equivalent and therefore the argument might as well have been presented as:

    1. If absolute moral values exist then God exist (equivalent to my first premise)
    2. Absolute moral values do exist
    3. Therefore God exist

    You can read more about conditional statements and their contrapositive here: http://www.regentsprep.org/Regents/Math/relcond/Lcontrap.htm

    Do we agree now?

  6. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhu! Since I have some more time I’ll continue commenting on some of the points you made.

    Dostoevsky said that if God does not exist then everything is permitted. In other words he said that morality is contingent upon the existence of God. This is the first premise of my argument.

    Something can only be judged evil if there’s an absolute moral standard against which to measure. That absolute standard can only be made by God. At least it’s the only acceptable explanation. So if evil exist then God exist.

    You write:

    “Of course hardly anyone would agree that “no behavior can be said to be wrong or bad, because morals values are completely dependent on one’s situation.” I doubt though, that people who identify themselves as “moral relativists” would take such extreme positions.”

    This is my point. The logical outcome of moral relativism is that every act is morally equal to every other act. But the moral relativist can’t help making moral judgments and usually he also doesn’t want to. He seems to think it makes sense to be moral in the absence of existence of God. But it doesn’t and therefore both his moral philosophy and his behavior are inconsistent with reality – as reality looks like in his own moral relativistic universe. To ground morality in society or in genes doesn’t make it absolute and true. It would still be relative . In fact we can’t derive any “ought” from a morality that’s grounded in society and/or in genes. This would be the naturalistic fallacy of deriving an “ought” from an “is”. (cont.)

  7. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    (cont. )

    You write:

    “Any follower of the Vedas would probably agree that some acts are acceptable for sudras but not for brahmanas or ksatriyas, and vice versa. Would that make them moral relativists?”

    There’s an important difference here. In an atheistic universe EVERY moral value and duty is relative. I think it makes sense to say that in the Vedic culture for any person p in a specific context x there’s something he/she ought to do. So a sudra doesn’t have all the same oughts as a kshatriya on a battlefield. But if he were a kshatriya in the exact same context he would have the exact same duty. Someone might be a sudra but if he were in the exact same situation as Arjuna his absolute moral duty would be to act as Arjuna. So in Vedic culture morality can be relative to time, place and circumstances, and the only reason it makes sense to follow them is because by doing that we serve some higher absolute moral values and duties which all can be traced back to “you should do what is pleasing to Krishna”. That’s the ultimate measuring standard for morality in our philosophy. Everyone should follow that, but exactly how differs according to varna and ashrama and time, place and circumstances. That doesn’t make morality relative and inconsistent as in an atheistic universe where there’s no absolute standard against which to measure our acts.

    Regarding the need for further elaboration on “absolute moral values” and “moral relativism” I’m not sure what it is you feel is missing for a complete understanding. Could you please try to elaborate on that and then I’ll do my best to answer.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Ys, AKD

  8. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Akrunatha Prabhu,

    OK! We then agree on the validity of the argument. Then the only question is if the premises are true – or actually they just have to be more plausible than their negation in order for us to show that the conclusion is more plausible than it’s negation. Since we are arguing on the basis of logic and reason then there always some uncertainty, but that doesn’t at all make it impossible to show that theism is the only rational position. And that’s really sufficient for us. (I’m not talking directly to you, Prabhu, but just revealing my thoughts and giving some background for the readers in case they need it). So excuse me if I seem arrogant (which I tend to be) in my presentation.

    I suggest we then take the first premise of the argument. What are your thoughts about that?

    Ys, AKD

  9. Most people, even atheists, have a sense of right and wrong. Almost everyone agrees that to inflict suffering on the innocent is wrong.

    (Non-vegetarians and abortionists have a big blind spot about the violence they are doing and how they are checking the progress of living beings, but even they shrink from other acts of wanton cruelty).

    But why is it wrong?

    A devotee understands that all sentient beings are parts and parcels of God, and that it is everyone’s duty to serve and please God in all respects. To know how to please God in how we treat other people is the hallmark of a madhyama adhikäri: prema-maitri-krpopeksa, i.e., love for the Lord, friendship for the Vaisnavas, mercy for the innocent, and avoidance of the envious.

    For a devotee, even violating a moral rule is the best course if by so doing one can please God. (For example, Krishna asked Yuddhisthira Maharaja to mislead Dronacarya. The nondevotee moralists say that for this transgression of his vow of truthfulness he had to see hell, but the Vaisnava acaryas teach us it was due to his hesitation in carrying out the Lord’s order. Of course, we understand he was a topmost devotee and only hesitated because Krishna arranged this instructive pastime through yoga-maya.)

    Generally, Krishna wants us to act piously and avoid sin. Those who are sinful generally cannot understand Krishna. (See, B.G. 15.20 purport.) Those who are pious and free from sin can, being freed from duality and illusion, serve Krishna with firm determination. (B.G. 7.28)

    Atheists can conceive of a world where laws and rules apply without any supreme person. There is, after all, a regime of morality whereby one who acts properly in accordance with social duties and performs proper sacrifices, penances and charity achieves elevation to higher planets and better facility for material enjoyment.

    For devotees, of course, Krishna is so obviously present in everything that it is hard to see how anyone can deny His existence.

    Some atheists (Bill Maher the comedian, for example, or Jean-Paul Sartre) will ridicule the idea of being kind to others out of fear of incurring God’s wrath. They like to think that our goodness is more genuine if it does not depend on a calculation of being rewarded or punished by a (mythical) supreme authority figure, but that we take moral responsibility for our own actions.

    They don’t know that real kindness is giving Krishna consciouness.

  10. I guess my question about the first premise would be, what is your distinction between “absolute moral values” and “relative moral values”?

    To say that there are some values which are true regardless of whether anyone knows about them or agrees with them or follows them (or can even refrain from following them) seems inconsistent with your statement that moral values are contingent on persons. Can we refine that?

    This very concept of “no one” knowing about them seems atheistic, in the sense that it presupposes that even God might not know about them, and that even God is nevertheless subjected to them, so there is something higher than God. (Or must we take it when you say “no one” knows about them you mean “no one but God”?)

    To play devil’s advocate, I would suggest that one who travels widely notices a wide variety of manners and customs among different societies, whether it comes to table manners, marriage arrangements (a Mormon offshoot Polygamist cult from Texas is very much in the news these days in the U.S.), ideals of honor and virtue in physical combat, in obedience to parents and elders, in obedience to noblemen and holy men. (“Obedience to noblemen” sounds strange and archaic to our 21st century ears, but for a moral teacher such as Confucius, for example, it might be considered very basic and essential)

    “Absolutists” from among different societies simply condemn each other and have very little ability to learn about or understand each other. In the 19th century, Christian missionaries supplanted the native Hawaian culture in a remarkably short time, but we get the sense that they did so without much sensitivity or appreciation for the good things within the traditional culture that they devastated.

    A true philosopher might be moved to find more general absolute principles which are served by different specific local customs. For example, people in different socieies honor ancestors, pray to and worship God or divine beings, give charity, practice self control, and even though they do these things in different ways there may be some overarching universal, more general moral values served. (Krishna begins such a broad-minded discussion in the 17th Chapter of the Gita).

    A person who can follow the local customs (within certain boundaries), without losing sight of God, might appear to be a “relativist.” One attached to moral rules as the all in all does not really know God.

  11. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhu!

    Thanks for your feed back! First of all I would to clarify again that the argument doesn’t say that one has to be a theist to follow a moral philosophy. Atheists can and do follow moral philosophies. But the argument says that makes them inconsistent, because morality can only be founded in God. So even moral values held by atheists prove the existence of God.

    You wrote: “Or must we take it when you say “no one” knows about them you mean “no one but God”?)”

    Yes, that’s what I mean. Thanks for pointing it out. I think I’ll just put it like this instead:

    “Absolute moral values are values that exist objectively and are true for all human beings, even if only some or no one agrees to them, knows about their existence or can act contrary to them.”

    I think that should do the job. I’ll not include demigods and other beings. I don’t want to introduce the reader to too many new things that will distract his/her attention from the point.

    The last part of your comment doesn’t really refute any of the premises as far as I can see. Moral absolutists might disagree about what they consider absolute moral values. But that doesn’t make all moral values relative. At one time people disagreed about whether or not the Earth was round or flat. But that didn’t change the truth about the Earths form. When discussing this I think we start to move from a talk about the foundation of absolute morality to an epistemological talk about how we can know them. If we have some sort of a moral sense then we might perceive moral values differently. For a sense to work properly it has to function correctly and be in the right circumstances. If it has problems meeting these criteria then it will not collect trustworthy data. But that doesn’t change the truth about nature of the object it observes. It’s possible that a moral absolutists moral senses doesn’t meet these criteria. Atheists moral senses might many times work better than many theists moral senses. But they would still be inconsistent in following such a morality, since it can only be justified by reference to God.

    Looking forward to your response Prabhu!

    Ys, AKD

  12. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    “I guess my question about the first premise would be, what is your distinction between “absolute moral values” and “relative moral values”?”

    Normally we test the truthvalue of a proposition by holding it up against reality. The statement “the Earth is round” is true if, and only if, the Earth, as it is existing independent of our perception of it, is actually round.

    So when testing the truthvalue of moral propositions we have to hold them up against reality. The moral proposition “there’s something we ought to do” is true if, and only if, there exist an absolute moral standard in the real world – independent of our consciousness – that tells us that there’s something we ought to do. If no such standard exists and we only have peoples opinions and feelings about it then none of these can be said to be any better or any worse than any other of them and thus we are left with relative morality. This means that no matter which moral proposition we have – be it articulated by a single person, agreed upon by many, written down as a law, the product of our genes and environment – we can’t hold it up against any absolute normative moral standard to test it’s truthvalue. In such a scenario the only absolute moral standard (but not a normative one) would be the one telling us that there’s really nothing we ought to do. And thus all normative moral proposition would be wrong. This can be shown like this:

    Objective reality: “There’s nothing you ought to do” >

  13. Pandu das says :

    Hare Krishna. Atheists I’ve known prefer relative morality, (I think most of us have heard the self-contradictory decree that “There are no absolutes.”) as it seems to give more freedom.

    Even an atheist may see that for some reason doing good gives happiness, passion brings misery, and ignorance leads to madness. Because they only want to enjoy, morality to an atheist is whatever pleases them, whether in the future, the present, or only in their imagination.

    Recently the Mensa Journal had “Altrusim” as its feature topic, and the prevalent idea was that it is a word with no actual reality, that actually greed is the root of all goodness. That, of course, is the basis of capitalism, so it should be no big surprise to hear it from at least a few greedy speculators. They said people do good for the subtle satisfaction it gives, or that goodness happens to others as a byproduct of greed. For example, if I build a bridge for my use, others may also use the bridge. Even with a fee for crossing, people will only pay if it benefits them.

    We can say that there are many examples of real altruism among the Vaishnava saints, but they don’t want to hear it, likely for the fear that this would contradict their philosophy and thereby spoil their pleasure pursuits. They can even take this argument a step further and accuse us of immorality when we argue contrary to their philosophy, claiming us intolerant.

    We also don’t accept absolute morality. Atheists observe morality as it pleases them, and we observe it as it pleases Krishna. Thus “Sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja…” The various groups do not even agree on what constitutes morality, as exemplified by the dispute over Gangotri or mothers giving hamburgers to their kids. Although it may be true in one sense, I don’t think helps to rely on the idea that, “Deep down we all know that something is really right and something is really wrong.” People may believe in morality, but the complexities of the material world lead to confusion and mistaken conclusions about morality. If we’re going to tell what others believe “deep down,” then we might as well say that deep down everyone knows that God exists and is supreme, which I do believe (is that bona fide?). It may be true, but if it’s so deep that people cannot even see it in themselves, or if they don’t want to look, then it won’t be very convincing. Actually if one offers proof that is not accepted, then it may create more doubt.

  14. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    Dear Pandu Prabhu! Thanks for the feed back.

    Like I wrote this is one of the most effective arguments for the existence of God – if presented in the proper way.

    I’ve already addressed the point that atheists can be moral. Atheists can be moral, and actually always is, and that supports the argument, because it shows they are then philosophically inconsistent, that they can’t live according to their philosophy and that they contradicting reality.

    You say we don’t accept absolute morality. I’m bewildered. What do you mean by that? Where in our sastra is it said that all morality is relative?

    I’ve also addressed the point that argues that even moral absolutists disagree about morality. That’s also irrelevant to the argument. Actually it’s the fallacy called “inflation of conflict”. You can read my refutation of that objection above in my previous comments.

    You wrote: “I don’t think helps to rely on the idea that, “Deep down we all know that something is really right and something is really wrong.”

    I see no more reason to reject the objectivity of morality than to reject the objectivity of the objective world, the past, other minds etc. Humans can’t stop making moral judgments and thus the moral relativist is forced to think inconsistently, live inconsistently, contradict reality – and if they actually try to live according to moral relativism they become very immoral.

    When evaluating a moral philosophy it’s common practice to see what the consequences of that moral philosophy is. And if it goes against what most peoples moral intuition tells us then it’s rejected. If the logical consequences of a moral philosophy is that people who follow it comes to think that all acts are morally equal so that torturing babies for fun has the same moral status as nurturing the children then it will be normal practice to reject that moral philosophy.

    The whole point is that if we can show the problems with moral relativism I pointed out, and if moral absolutism doesn’t suffer these consequences then we have to choose moral absolutism. We can’t accept a philosophy we can’t follow, that’s inconsistent, contradicts reality and makes us monsters. If one think just a little about it he/she will be forced to accept God.

  15. ccd says :

    From a purely logical point of view, which can be a valid attitude or a tactic for some, very specific conditions:

    Your premise 1 is already something that you are trying to prove, in effect its not an Argument. Its a Axiological judgment closely resembling a tautological claim – if there is no God, therefore there is no morality, because there is God, there must be morality. .. (I simplified it). Because notion is tautological, we cannot complete the proof. Only if person accepts your judgment or axiom in the first instance, you start a second step, first step is an act of faith. You can have a look at classical arguments here. (Prabhupada, for example, used Argument IX from this list sometimes, in a simple way, but very effective.)

    To appear more logical you may rephrase it to resemble standard deontic logic (btw, used by the Mimamsa school) e.g. If it ought to be that Absolute morality existence implies Existence of God, then if it ought to be that Absolute morality Exists, it ought to be that God exists;

    Of course, Absolute morality does not exist, as there is no place of Morality in the Absolute, since in Absolute there is no contamination of a possibility of acting immorally (ie Morality is only a feature of this temporary world). Its a Christian conception of Good and Evil that drives us to assume axiomatically, that God is Good and Satan is Evil, we know that God is beyond this world of duality, anyway at least we know it theoretically, as I noticed some devotees still live in this world of good god vs maya. Of course while in this world we are so conditioned to it see it in duality, but there is no duality or immorality in the spiritual world, thus of course none in God (who is Krishna by the way, and he can be demonstrated and at the same time can not be demonstrated, for he is not revealed to …. five letter word here from Bg9.11 ). In fact it applies to other aspects such as brahman and paramatma, who have nothing to do with this world’s morality, or my morality and your morality and atheist’s morality or non-existent Absolute morality…

  16. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Dear ccd!

    The argument is logically valid. You seem to be implying the argument is circular. But it’s not. I’m not trying to prove premise 1 in my conclusion. The conclusion is that God exist and to prove that I use the premises. If the premises are true then the conclusion follows necessarily. I can’t really recognize my argument when I look at your presentation of it:

    “…if there is no God, therefore there is no morality, because there is God, there must be morality.”

    That’s not the way I present the argument. I invite you to study it carefully again.

    I don’t really think the first premise is an act of faith. I’ve given ample reason to support it. And if I can show that it’s more plausible than it’s negation then we have a good case for it. In this instance it’s not just more plausible, but very much more plausible. It seems like the only acceptable choice.

    Regarding the IX argument from the link you provided: This point is incorporated in my argument. I’ve shown that if people accept moral relativism they end up being morally crippled monsters.

    I see no reason to rephrase the argument in the way you present. I find that formulation quite obscure. The argument as I’m presenting it (and this is a standard way of presenting it not invented by me) is a valid syllogism.

    Sometimes Prabhupada makes the point that Krishna is above morality and that on the trancendental platform there’s no morality. But I think it’s clear that SP is talking about “mundane morality” here. In other places Prabhupada talk about “real morality” and “absolute morality”. Take a look at this quote:

    “If the conduct of the pure devotee crosses the lines of ordinary morality it is because he acts on the plane of Absolute Morality…”

    Even our duties in our varna and ashrama are absolute in the sense that it’s really true that we ought to perform them. It’s not just another opinion or based on feelings or agreed upon or a product of our genes. It’s true that any person in any particular situation has a moral duty which is based on moral values. These values are comes from Krishna and they are absolute. So there is an absolute foundation for morality unlike in the atheistic universe. Even in the spiritual world if you act against Krishna desire you’ll be thrown into this world. It’s not like we can do whatever we like in the spiritual world.

    Ys, AKD

  17. ccd says :

    In the quoted letter that you chopped up (not for a purpose I hope), Prabhupada makes a very different statement that defeats your argument: But so far as stealing is concerned, one should not steal except in the rarest circumstances. Moral principle is recommended in all scriptures as prerequisite for spiritual culture. If the conduct of the pure devotee crosses the lines of ordinary morality it is because he acts on the plane of Absolute Morality which is not known to the conditioned soul and cannot therefore be imitated. So generally we should be careful to observe good moral conduct.(letter to Pradyumna 1968). It appears that there is a consensus above on the issue, however I think that its better to explore sastric proofs and proven logic, that worked before by the acaryas and other devotees. On the other hand maybe you can go to a debating club in your university and see if they will accept “If God does not exist, absolute moral values do not exist” as a first proposition, I believe they may not. But from a practical point of view, the connection to sastra and practical realizations of other devotees are more valuable, then mathematical logic. There is even a sutra, tarkāpratiṣṭhānāt “Because of the foundationlessness of logic” (VSutra 2.1.11) Of course you canmay translate Absolute Morality as paro dharma, or you should accept that it can not be known to a conditioned soul as per Prabhupadas letter you quoted, in any case I will accept your argument, if the first instance the meaning is acceptable to you as in – sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo. I know there are people who do not care for truth, but they want to win for any cost. They are usually not among the devotees and are hurtful to others and have a strong desire to dominate others by whatever means, and among the devotees nobody really wants to deal with the type mainly because they are very argumentative, sometimes called insincere debaters; Im not like that (I hope at least), so I will not be arguing back.

  18. ccd says :

    Continued form the above text:

    I think the last sentence : It’s not like we can do whatever we like in the spiritual world. Is quite significant. There is no difference between desire and act in the spiritual world. There is morality just as there is time, but both are only to enhance the pleasure of the pastimes of Krishna.

    Once karma is not absolute (even if it relates to the absolute). In the text above I was refering to an option to reverse-translate the meanings of morality, as for example as duty, dharma. But that is not the common meaning. There is some superiority of bhakti sastra to the dharma sastra. This is the reason I do not appreciate stressing the view, that there are universal, eternal moral truths – known as moral absolutism. This is a karma misra idea based on the idea of morality being directly and only the rule of God, but we know that its not the case in this world, and there it must be conspicuous by its absence in the spiritual world, as every action there is not done out of fear of punishment (as in Catholic theory of of final judgment where taking into account all of each person’s deeds, both good and bad, and all sins, both forgiven and unforgiven, each person will be judged with perfect justice of Absolute Morality of God).

    Yes you are right and most predominant view of Prabhupada is that Krishna is above this material morality. The only morality he needs is a social pressure to make sure his devotees surrender to him DESPITE any moral judgments that are put on them. In fact gopis are the best examples of it, that why we worship them, they would do anything for Krishna. Not to be imitated but to be understood as a background of a need of morality in the spiritual world.

  19. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    Dear CC Prabhu!

    Regarding the quote from Srila Prabhupada: You said that “absolute morality does not exist”. I can’t see why you think it makes a difference that I didn’t mention the whole context of the particular quote, because the important thing is that SP said that a pure devotee acts on the platform of “Absolute Morality”. Thus absolute morality does exist – contrary to what you claimed. And when SP says that a conditioned soul does not know absolute morality it first of all does not mean that we can’t know that absolute morality does exist. We can know it exist (SP just told us in the above), but not always know exactly what it is, just like we can know Krishna exist, but not always know everything about Him. It also seems clear to me that when SP says that a conditioned can’t know about absolute morality it simply means that sometimes we can’t understand the actions of a pure devotee, because He’s acting on the absolute platform. I’m a conditioned soul, but I know some absolute moral principles – like that I ought to always act in a way that pleases Krishna. That’s the ultimate and absolute moral principle.

    You wrote: “…maybe you can go to a debating club in your university and see if they will accept “If God does not exist, absolute moral values do not exist” as a first proposition,…”

    First of all I don’t think their acceptance is the only measure of success. It’s also a success if we can get them in trouble by providing good arguments in favor of the premise and show that there are big problems with their arguments against it. Secondly, most atheists agree with the premise. Many people have been taught in school that once we believed in God and thought that morality was absolute, but now that God is dead we know that morality is something relative which differs according to individuals, societies, cultures, nations etc. So this premise is really confirming what most people have been taught in secular educational institutions. Thirdly, I already explained that this argument is one of the most successful arguments when presented to big audiences and in universities. I haven’t presented it such a place myself, but I’ve heard lectures on the argument from universities and heard evaluations of such presentations by scholars. And when I present this argument to atheists they also get into serious problems.

  20. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Continued from above:

    You wrote: “But from a practical point of view, the connection to sastra and practical realizations of other devotees are more valuable, then mathematical logic.”

    Logic is definitely not absolute. But consider that you are using logic to argue against this argument and thus you have to admit that logic is indeed valuable. Logic is in fact pramana, evidence, according to our tradition. This argument might not be perfect, because it’s based solely on sense perception and logic, but that does not make valueless, nor does it make the atheistic conclusion just as good. Logic and sense perception can bring us to the conclusion that theism is the only rational position to hold. Prabhupada used such arguments to provide support for theism.

    You wrote: “I will accept your argument, if the first instance the meaning is acceptable to you as in – sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo.”

    What I mean is that the absolute moral principle is to act in a way that pleases Krishna. Every single act that any moral agent has ever performed can be evaluated according to this absolute moral principle. And because this absolute moral principle exist it makes sense to discriminate between different actions and divide them into morally good and bad and place acts into a moral hierarchy. I’ve heard that SP sometimes said: “It’s not very good, but it’s still good.” This means that it pleases Krishna, but that there’s something that pleases Krishna even more. Krishna also reveals through scriptures, the guru and our hearts what pleases Him, and because to please Him is an absolute moral principle it makes sense to follow the moral commands He issues through these three mediums. In an atheistic universe there are no such absolute moral principles and therefore it does not make sense for an atheist to make normative moral judgments and make a moral hierarchy. In their universe all acts are morally equal/neutral.

    If we have to present arguments in favor of theism it’s important that the arguments are good. One of the reasons I posted my argument here was to receive feed back. So if you think you can argue successfully against the argument I would be happy if you did. Don’t consider it an attack against me, but as you and me coorporating to find good arguments and reject bad ones.

  21. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Continued from above:

    Prabhu, it’s not fully clear to me how your last post is relating to my argument. I think you’re somehow discussing your own misunderstanding of what I’m trying to say. I would like to invite you to search the vedabase for “morality”. You’ll see that SP again and again differentiates between mundane and absolute morality. He calls the absolute morality by different names like the “real”, “actual”, “highest”, “absolute”, “universal”, “greatest”, “spiritual”, and “transcendental” morality. There are many places where it is clear that SP agrees with both premises in The Moral Argument. Take a look at the BG lecture given in London, August 29, 1973 (730829BG.LON). SP talk about the standard of morality throughout this lecture.

    So, as far as I can see, we have to accept both premises of the argument both on the strength of SP, sastra and logic and reason, and since the argument is logically valid (it’s based on the valid logical form modus ponens) then we have to accept the conclusion on the basis of the premises. Given the arguments I gave in favor of the premises I think we can give atheists a really hard time and provide devotees with a solid, rational foundation for accepting the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

    Ys, AKD

  22. Sorry for the long delay Ajita Krishna Prabhu.

    (I did write some things a week or so agoi but they were so wild and reckless or poorly-expressed that they did not make it past the Dandavats moderators)

    I think we have now pinned down what you mean by “absolute moral values” in the first premise. To recap, you mean “absolute” in the sense of being objectively real, rather than just something in peoples’ minds.

    You do not mean “absolute” in the sense that one particular type of action is good or bad universally, without consideration of time, place, circumstance or the situation of the individual actor. But you do mean that whether any given action was good or bad is something real and part of a description of the world as it really exists.

    [Modern, scientific thought tends to create a dichotomy between “facts” and “values”. Scientists are happy to talk about mass, time, velocity, wavelength, electrical charge, gravitational force, etc. They consider discussions about ethics, or aesthetics for that matter, to be on a different order, somehow less real or less susceptible to precise determination.]

    My next question to you would be (proceding slowly), what does the existence of “absolute” moral values, in this sense, have to do with the existence of God?

    Why can’t it just be that a particular act (say, twirling a Buddhist prayer wheel, planting a fruit tree or digging a well) is objectively good, and will produce “good karma” (in terms of bhogaisvarya for the actor in the future), whereas another act (eating meat, telling a lie, having illicit sex) is objectively bad and will produce sinful reactions for the actor, whether or not there is a God or Supreme Person?

    To put it another way, why is the the objective reality of the mass or velocity of a particular stone any less indicative of the existence of God than the objective reality of the sinfulness of a particular murder or theft, or the piety of a particular act of charity or penance?

    We could say, “1. If God does not exist, objective reality does not exist; 2. Objective reality does exist; etc.” (What would it mean for a rock to exist without Krishna? How could the planets stay in orbit or the food in animals’ stomachs be digested without Krishna?)

    What, if anything, makes the objective reality of moral values any more dependent on the existence of God than the objective reality of a rock on the university lawn?

  23. ccd says :

    Dear Ajita Krishna Prabhu

    To answer you questions, at first we thought that you talk about morality of this material world as absolute, “absolute moral values”, it appears it does not exist. Then it appears you had to resort to Prabhupadas quote that differentiated between the two, absolute morality of a devotee and mundane morality. Prabhupada specifically states that this level of Absolute Morality is not understood by a conditioned soul. Clearly and according to the continues problem with the clarity of definition of what you mean by Absolute Morality or “absolute moral values” we just can not move ahead. I have suggested a few ways to understand Absolute Morality, as being paradharma or as in the spiritual world a ‘notion’ of morality that increases the pleasure of the pastimes of parakiya. Now Akuranantha is trying to suggest something along the lines where its replaced with objective reality.

    Things like that will keep happen if you borrow philosophical arguments from a different religio-philosophical tradition, that does not distingush between mundane morality and Absolute Morality (that is not understood to conditioned souls) in the same way we do.

    I know I am a conditioned soul, but if you can not explain to me what you mean by “absolute moral values” you will have hard time explaining it to others. So it seems experiment worked and we found the difficulty – its the definition of “absolute moral values” (borrowed from other tradition). I wish it was as easy in all other arguments. But yes its possible people will agree with you, but probably they will put a completely different definition in what you mean by “absolute moral values”, whats good of such argument then? You are talking about apples and they talk about notebooks.

    ys Caitanya

  24. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhu!
    No excuse needed!

    You wrote: “You do not mean “absolute” in the sense that one particular type of action is good or bad universally, without consideration of time, place, circumstance or the situation of the individual actor.”

    In fact I do mean absolute in the sense of universal. It is an absolute, universal, eternal, objective and true moral principle/value/duty that any moral agent ought to please Krishna in any given situation we are in. That’s the absolute and universal standard against which every act any moral agent has performed in past, is performing in the present and will perform in the future is measured. Krishna further gives us some absolute and universal moral duties to perform like remembering Him for example. And then He gives specific moral duties according to time place and circumstances, but these can all be traced back the the absolute and universal “do what pleases Krishna-principle”. So even in the relative (though not relative in the same sense as atheistic morality) moral duties that Krishna gives there is an absolute and universal moral component.

    You wrote: “My next question to you would be (proceding slowly), what does the existence of “absolute” moral values, in this sense, have to do with the existence of God?”

    I think I have given clear arguments in my text to show that only an absolute person with absolute power can create absolute moral values (first premise). I’ve also presented arguments why the negation of that first premise can’t be accepted as rational even though it’s a logical possibility.

  25. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Continued from the above:

    You wrote: “What, if anything, makes the objective reality of moral values any more dependent on the existence of God than the objective reality of a rock on the university lawn?”

    The Moral Argument is in fact a sort of Design Argument, because it argues that absolute moral values, duties and accountablity must be designed by a person; an absolute person. Now, to address your point. You and I can agree that the objective reality is a proof of the existence of God because we share the same world view in many ways. And the argument as you presented it is indeed both valid and true. But the success of the argument in terms of preaching is how convincingly you can argue in favor of the premises. In this case you have to provide evidence to the effect that “If God does not exist, then the objective reality does not exist”. It will be great if you can do that. However I don’t think it will be as convincing as the first premise in my argument. Values point directly towards a person of some sort. Almost anyone will admit that values are always produced by persons. The same can not be said about the objective reality.

  26. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Dear Caitanya Prabhu!

    I believe I have given a very clear definition of what I mean by absolute morality and absolute values. I also don’t think I have borrowed anything from any other tradition. I think that moral absolutism is so obviously integral to our tradition (as well as all other monotheistic traditions) that I’m astonished to meet devotees who disagrees. If one don’t agree that morality is absolute then one must necessarily think it’s relative. But that would mean that any moral judgment is just as good as any other moral judgment and that’s not our philosophy. This will be clear if we read what Prabhupada says about morality. I gave some references from the vedabase.

    Regarding the Prabhupada quote: While researching the vedabase for quotes on morality I found it very clear that Prabhupada says that absolute morality exist and that we can know it – at least in proportion to our advancement in Krishna Consciousness. But due to being conditioned sometimes we can’t understand the behavior of the pure devotee. But it’s not that we can’t know absolute morality at all. By weighing the different quotes on morality against each other this became clear to me and I think it will be clear to anyone who take a look at these quotes.

    All the best,

    Ys, Ajita Krishna Dasa

  27. Pandu das says :

    Hare Krishna. It seems to me that there is a disconnect between what Srila Prabhupada mentions as Absolute Morality and what ordinary people are inclined to accept. If we are going to talk of Abolute Morality, then it means to please Krishna. Oddly enough, if something exists for the purpose of serving another principle, then it’s not exactly absolute at least as I would use the word. It seems that the phrase indicates “morality in relation with the Absolute,” not that any conditions of morality are in itself an absolute principle or universally accepted. The consideration that even a murderer, for example, has some perverted moral principles, would not even catch my attention, what to speak of proving God’s existence to me if I did not already believe.

    Concerning the public, their idea of absolute morality would ordinarily be on the bodily platform, such as that one does not kill or torture innocent people. Of course, that many people violate these principles prove they are not absolute. If people accept these or similar principles as absolute morality, and Srila Prabhupada indicates a transcendental idea of Absolute Morality, it does not prove anything. It’s simply the using the same words to describe two different things, one the original, and the other the perverted reflection. In material life morality assists with sense gratification. The fact that people make such social contracts is not very convincing proof of the existence of God. It is like saying that people’s lusty attraction for each other, which they term “love,” is proof of the true loving relationships that exist in the spiritual world. It may be considered one piece of evidence for those who are already inclined to accept it, but it is not very convinding proof.

    Although we can rightly say that one can do anything illegal activity if it is for Krishna’s pleasure, and it is perfect morality, the public would certainly not accept it, nor would it convince them that Krishna is God. (History has proven that breaking mundane laws for Krishna can harm our preaching efforts for a long time.) If they do not already accept our presentation of how pure devotees act entirely on the spiritual platform wherever they may be, then our concepts of absolute morality will be quite different, even though the words may be the same. It almost seems like a way of trying to trick the public for their benefit rather than using straight, connected reasoning to convince them.

  28. ccd says :

    Dear Ajita Krishna Prabhu

    Moral absolutism is not an integral part to our tradition. You have not quoted a single statement of the smriti or sruti to support such claim, not even tikas or Prabhupadas purports. If it was integral to our tradition then Prabhupada and Siddhanta Sarasvati would have used the term. One one side morality is extremely important however the fact is that devotees have a very special treatment from Krishna and even if they commit most abominable act, (from the point of view of Morality) willingly or accidentally, the power of the devotional service is such that any reaction of such act will be nullified. This concept is the basis of our philosophy, and not the concept of God the final judge.

    Absolute morality that Prabhupada is talking about is different to what a normal person would conceive as a culmination of mundane morality. Probably you have a Christian background and you can not conceive of it otherwise.

    ys

  29. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    Sorry for the long absence!

    Dear Caitanya Caran Prabhu!

    It seems clear to me that you’re misunderstanding the term “absolute morality”. You seem to think it has something to do with when, how and why we are punished for our moral misdeeds. But that’s a secondary issue in this connection. We are simply talking about ontology – if such a thing as absolute moral laws exist.

    A common, straight forward, simple and fine definition of “moral absolutism” is

    “…the view that there is at least one principle that ought never to be violated.”

    Prabhupada’s books are filled with moral rules that ought never to be violated. The most fundamental of these are that we always ought to remember Krishna and never forgive him. So moral absolutism is definitely integral to our philosophy. Prabhupada was totally against moral relativism/subjectivism and he critizised these views by pointing out that if there is no Krishna there is no fixed morality.

    Your servant,
    Ajit Krishna Dasa

  30. ccd says :

    You are right Ajit Krishnadasa Prabhu, It all depends on what you define as ‘moral principle’. Absolute moral principle of Krishna being the ‘bhakta vatsala’ is the most fundamental reason for any other form of ‘moral absolutism’. However have these convinced anyone purely on the basis of logic? Welcome back – long time no see! ysccd

  31. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Thanks prabhu! I’ve just been trying to reduce my internet activity.

    Nice that we seem to agree now. My experience tells me that it’s very difficult to convince very sceptic people with a single argument even if it is good. But I know from experience and from others that it is a very powerful argument – and that people are attracted to it. Some have been convinced by it. The argument has the following benefits:

    1. It very simple, easy to understand and remember
    2. It touches people because it has to do with morality and the consequences of our world views – on an individual and social level. It provokes so everyone gets fired up about it.
    3. It brings even the most hardcore atheist on thin ice – if it is presented and defended properly
    4. It strengthens theists in their belief
    5. It’s easy to defend – you don’t need a lot of scientific knowledge about biology and physics etc.

    When I think about using logic and science to defend belief in God I always think of an old fashioned weight – a weight scale – with two weights. You can put many arguments on each scale and see which scale has most weight. I this way you get what is called a cumulative argument. I would say that this argument is one of the heaviest for the existence of God. I’ve been using it for years and I know practically all the arguments against it and they are really poor which gives me an opportunity to appear very confident and make the atheist look very pathetic.

    It’s actually more or less the “lawmaker argument” which Prabhupada also uses: Where there is a moral law there must be a lawmaker behind. Prabhupada often used this argument, as you know. Ok, enough for now. Ys, AKD

  32. Ajita Krishna Dasa says :

    Pamho, agtSP!

    I have just finished the first version of a paper that show that Prabhupada agreed with and used “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God”.

    Here a preview:

    “Prabhupada agrees with and uses TMA. He is of the conviction–I should say he knows–that an unchanging, absolute, ultimate, universal morality that transcends space and time exists. He thinks this fact can be known by analyzing the stringent laws of nature which is impossiple to neglect without being punished. He further argues that behind every law there must be a lawmaker, and so behind the laws of nature there must be a Supreme Lawmaker, God. So Prabhupada accepted TMA as a valid and sound argument which can be used in arguing for the existence of God. Consequently we should also embrace it as such.”

    Please view the whole paper here:

    http://docs.google.com/View?docid=d83tkq3_18gxzdzkc8

    Your comments are needed,

    Ys, AKD

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