Mike Winger, Christopher Hitchens, and a Challenge

Many years ago Christopher Hitchens issued a challenge to theists: “Name a morally act, or a moral statement, that could not have been made by an atheist?” Christian apologist Mike Winger seems to think that he has an answer to that challenge: The theist can love God.

Right off the bat I have an objection to this answer, because Winger assumes that loving God is an actual moral good. I do not grant this and it is not because I do not accept that God exists. I could grant that God exists and I don’t think it follows that loving God would be a moral act. If God is as described in the Bible I would go so far as to say that loving, and submitting to, God may actually be immoral in much the same way that loving mass murdering dictators would be immoral.

I do have to wonder if part of the problem comes down to what is understood about something being morally good. When I speak of an act being morally good I am saying that such an action provides some benefit(s) to some other sentient being(s). But now we have a problem: Even if God exists, me loving a perfect being cannot provide God benefit since God is already perfect. Perfect beings cannot be made more perfect by my actions, nor can they be harmed by my inaction. So what exactly is good that comes from loving God? How is loving God a moral good?

If Winger believes that loving God has some benefit to other humans then we’re kinda back to the reason for the wager in the first place. Belief in God does not seem to be necessary to do good, and nobody has ever been able to show that loving God helps other humans, or is a necessary precursor to being able to do a morally good action.

Long story short, I don’t see that Winger has offered anything credible as an answer to Hitchens wager. Sure, a theist can love God, but they still have yet to show that this is actually good in any meaningful sense. I can believe that doing a snow dance for Santa Claus is good, but that doesn’t actually make it good. I still hold a burden of proof to establish that it actually is good and that I’m not just asserting it as such.

20 thoughts on “Mike Winger, Christopher Hitchens, and a Challenge”

  1. Gods perfection or morality is completely arbitrary, as he is also author of his own immunity. Man’s morality and gods are therefore so different he could not reasonably be the author of ours.
    Submitting to the will of anything outside yourself means you don’t trust yourself, so how can you trust the decision to abandon your moral autonomy?

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          1. The house has a roof on it but we have plenty of snow. I am still working and working on the house on my time off I’m ready to start plumbing. I’ll post some pictures when I get it cleaned up a little bit. Looks like a bomb went off in there

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  2. Is loving a moral act? Without an understanding and a response to love, by the one who is loved, the act has no meaning. For the delusional, of course, they can imagine that their god loves them back. GROG

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    1. And the believer just thinks you’re wrong about God. A more fundamental question needs to be asked of them, since they believe that God exists and you ought to love him.

      Suppose I was a Korean living in North Korea, and took the same position with regard to Kim Il-sung. Should I love him because he is the Dear Leader who gave us the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?

      Believers start with assumptions that I do not think are justified, even if I grant that God exists and is the creator. For the most part they’ve been indoctrinated with these beliefs and simply never question them. What exactly is the difference between being commanded to love Dear Leader, and being commanded to love God? Why should anyone consider either to be moral?

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    2. All of your actions are hardly self determined, yet a result of external influence. Self determination feels good, but that is pretty much an illusion.
      Take philology for instance. The philologist can determine when you lived and if you wrote a particular piece based on the structure of your writing which is time stamped by the society you live in. There really are no private thoughts. Just an expression of the collective.

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      1. Certainly external circumstances play a role and have influence, but when push comes to shove, I believe the final determining factor for our actions is our own. And each of us must live with the decisions/actions we make/take — which includes how they affect others.

        I’m not sure I see the connection to your example of philology … ??

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  3. IMO, the hang-up occurs in how “moral” or “morality” is defined. The definitions I have are thus:

    Moral= Concerned with principles of right and wrong or conforming to standards of behavior and character based on those principles
    Morality= (1) Concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong; (2) Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong.

    So who determines what the principles of “right” and/or “wrong” are? According to the believer, it’s “god.” According to the non-believer, it’s (as I indicated) the human community.

    Commandments are only as good as the authority behind them.

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    1. The commandment to love God is a strange one also. I don’t think that love is something that I can will myself to do. It is, as best I can tell, a neurological response, and one that I don’t have control over. In that respect the idea that “loving God” is moral is also absurd.

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  4. I think Mike is on to something. In fact, anyone who is not born again cannot do anything good. That is, when we try to do good for God as believers in God but not accepting God’s version of things (that we are sinners that need God to condescend to save us), then God says our attempt at earning our ‘stairway to heaven’ is as ‘filthy rags’. So obviously by that criteria, an unbeliever would also not be able to do anything moral; at least not as defined by God. Which is of course Nan’s point above.

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    1. Thank you for your comment.

      “In fact, anyone who is not born again cannot do anything good.”

      This is demonstrably wrong and absurd unless you are working with some completely messed up definition of “good.”

      “…then God says our attempt at earning our ‘stairway to heaven’ is as ‘filthy rags’”.

      If you’re behavior is predicated on attempting to buy your way into heaven I would be forced to ask myself if you’re actually a good person, rather than just a selfish ass.

      “So obviously by that criteria, an unbeliever would also not be able to do anything moral; at least not as defined by God…”

      Why should anyone give a flying rats patootie what God defines as moral? The Euthyphro dilemma tells us that morality either comes from God, in which case it is arbitrary, or it doesn’t, in wihch case God is extraneous. Appealing to God’s nature leads to the same problem.

      In the end I cannot discard my own sense of morality, even if there is a God who tells me that what I am doing is wrong, since my own sense of morality is literally the only thing I’ve got to rely on.

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      1. You say you can’t discard your own sense of morality. I agree. But what is the source of that? Fizzy chemicals? Then surly you can because it’s arbitrary. Your genes survival is irrelevant because it has no real purpose. You are mistaken about the Euthyphro dilemma. And you are equivocating on different definitions of good in the verse I quoted. I reply here only for your readers since you can’t even understand God’s truth unless the spirit opens your eyes.

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        1. “But what is the source of that [morality]? Fizzy chemicals”

          As best I can tell, my morality is the result several factors:
          1. The society I was raised in
          2. The conditions of how I was raised
          3. Millions of years of natural selection

          As a social species, those who can cooperate and work well with others have a significant survival advantage over those who work against others. The human society that we have today is only possible because we are able to cooperate with others of our species.

          Some actions are demonstrably and objectively harmful to the survival of individuals and the species, although survival is not the only thing that governs what is considered moral. The landscape is complicated by other aspects like autonomy.

          To call how our brains work “fizzy chemicals” is to seriously trivialize what we’re talking about. You may as well call the modern automobile just a “sofa on wheels” or perhaps I should start calling Jesus “that dude who had a bad weekend.” Trivializing things doesn’t help anybody. Go out and learn a little bit.

          “Your genes survival is irrelevant because it has no real purpose”

          What do you mean by “no real purpose”? It has the pragmatic purpose of keeping my genes alive and allowing them to propagate. If this is a successful strategy for reproduction then those genes which help facilitate survival are the ones that are going to occur more frequently in the population. Learn a little bit about evolution (although I suspect you deny that it’s real.)

          “You are mistaken about the Euthyphro dilemma”

          Okay, that’s nice. Would you care to elaborate? The most common response is that morality comes from “God’s nature”, whatever that is, but the same dilemma arises from that as well. God is simply extraneous for morality.

          Theists love to act like theistic morality is the only game in town when most philosophers of morality actually subscribe to secular moral theories.

          “I reply here only for your readers since you can’t even understand God’s truth unless the spirit opens your eyes.”

          Why would “God’s truth” be so complicated that I cannot understand it unaided? Should this stuff be trivial for God? Shouldn’t be expect that we’re born with the innate capability to understand these things if God wanted us to? Why the hoops of being elected? That just makes your God seem like a dick. The whole “God’s ways are not our ways” is a simple cop-out for the fact that you don’t have real answers and would rather obfuscate and hide behind a some hypothetical.

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