Objective morality exists

What is morality?

I recently read a column on CNN.com by Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and visiting professor of business ethics at the NYU-Stern School of Business.

In the column, Haidt discusses religion and its role in culture and morality.

He asserts that human beings “became” moral creatures and explains how religion has helped mold us into them.

Haidt is a self-proclaimed atheist, yet, in the context of religion, he discusses morality. If you think this could be philosophically unsound, you are not alone. Haidt even begins the column by asking his readers, “What’s an atheist scientist like me doing writing good things about religion?”

Let me explain morality and its relationship to religion, God and human beings – at least how I see it. Contrary to Haidt, I am not an atheist.

In fact, I believe it is impossible to be an atheist if one acknowledges any sort of morality independent of himself or herself.

Atheism assumes the existence of moral relativism, since any acknowledgement of moral objectivity could break the philosophical foundation upon which it rests.

The existence of morality, however, presupposes the existence of good and evil, an existence that is external of the self.

If this is so, human beings have a choice in any given situation to act either morally or immorally.

Now ask yourself: Is it “good” to act morally or immorally?

Most would probably concede that it is better to tell the truth rather than to lie, to help your neighbor rather than slander him.

From a cultural standpoint, there are several reasons why morality exists – the most basic of which is the obligation of civility, from which cities, nations and cultures are born. And I believe this “moral obligation” to help your neighbor proves the existence of a “good” that transcends humanity.

If humans, for reasons both cultural and philosophical, are naturally obligated to do good and since the existence of morality implies an independent reality external from the self, both philosophical objectivity and moral objectivity exist.

Morality is not purely a religious trait; human beings are innately moral creatures solely because objective morality exists within nature just as we do.

Religion is merely a set of values set primarily in a tradition that seeks to explain the existence of things within nature such as morality. It is not a handbook that creates subjective laws and subjugates citizens into acting as if they’re objective.


Reach this columnist at spmccaul@asu.edu.

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