For the Love of God: Or Hell as a Tool for Secular Morality

Written by TGBaker:

I developed this ditty from a Facebook spat with a friend of mine who is a Christian Philosopher, Dr. James F. Sennett. I had never really thought about this area before. But I think it produces another problem with the omni-attributes of a proposed god.

Does God love something because it is good? Or is it good because God loves it? If God does or loves something because it is good, then the good looks to something that is more sovereign than God to which he must conform to be good. If God were to oppose these standards called good then God would not be god since he lacks omni-benevolence. So God's omniscience is limited by the good. If on the other hand what is good is simply what God loves and commands ( the Divine Command Theory), then the good is simply whatever is the whim of God (such as killing all the babies in the Canaanite genocide). If there are no standards apart from God other than what he wants or commands then apart from him there is no good.

The former idea that there is a good apart from god means that humanity should follow that standard and obey God only if he is compliant to that standard. The latter view which state that the good is simply God's whim is obeyed only because of the threat of punishment or damnation. This dilemma is called the Euthyphro dilemma and has been left to us by Socrates.

Sam Harris has offered us a beginning means whereby to ground well-being in empirical science. I would like to call his tool Hell. Harris asks us to imagine a world with as much suffering, as intense suffering as possible, with as many people suffering and all of that for as long as can be imagined. Let's call this "Hell." It sounds like the Christian tradition and might be a good thing to rescue from them. Harris present the empirically based obvious. we would all agree that any movement from that designated measurement is a movement toward well-being, less suffering and more contentment. Obviously there are comparisons and considerations along the way to the antithesis of our Hell but our path will by that of human improvement. Our goal will be that of a paradise or heaven where well-being like physical health will be maximized.

With the removal of god from the mix the Euthypho dilemma becomes manageable. The idea of a transcendent good which God (much less any other being) is removed. An empirically based "landscape" of evidence and information for reasoning humanity to a better course is opened up as a field of promise. The fear of compliance of a tyrant that threatens eternal suffering is dethroned and replaced with a view toward paradise.

-- TGBaker of Georgia