Grand Theft Auto V is a great game. It’s taken a franchise that was focused on generic organized crime drama and turned it into a story about a group of individuals with widely varied backgrounds who come together for various reasons. The last few games were all about mobsters; this game is about planning and pulling off heists, which is a lot more interesting and is an area that hasn’t been explored much in video games.
(If you’re playing the game and don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now.)
On Slashdot today, a conversation about how people on the internet tend to dismiss news sources they don’t agree with and gravitate toward those they do somehow managed to transform into an argument about religion and morality. Someone actually tried to argue that even if there is no god, it’s best to promote organized religion, because without it we’d be a bunch of murderous, rapacious, thieving beasts and society would fall apart, since most people are too intellectually lazy (read: inept) to figure out morality for themselves.
I’ll lay it out for you…
Over at the “good” ol’ Huffington Post, Rabbi Adam Jacobs of the Aish Center in Manhattan has been posting rather frequently lately on subjects of interest to atheists. He’s swung and missed a few times already, but two days ago he somehow managed to hit himself in the head with the bat.
No, not ultimate as in “last.” Ultimate as in “this post is about the idea of an ultimate [insert concept here].”
So often in my discussions/arguments online with theists of various stripes I run into one of the following statements:
“If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. Everything would be subjective.”
“If there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate meaning to life.”
I find these arguments more than a bit bizarre. For one thing, they seem to assert that we absolutely, 100% know that there is an ultimate source of morality, or an ultimate meaning to life. For another, they seem to be a strange use of “ultimate.” When did “ultimate” come to mean “given to us by a supernatural creator?”
Yes, if there’s no God, then there’s no ultimate source of morality. But this does absolutely nothing to support either the existence of God or the existence of an ultimate source of morality! It’s essentially an argument based on the idea that there is some self-evident objective moral standard. But if were objective and self-evident, there wouldn’t be any argument. People who disagreed with it would be viewed with the same uneasy suspicion as people who disagreed with gravity. Instead, we live on a planet where people are constantly arguing over morality, and while we often find common ground, it’s rarely beyond the bare minimum standards we need to maintain social cohesion.
As for an ultimate meaning to life: Why would the meaning have to be ultimate? Why isn’t it enough for life to have current meaning? And what sort of value would the “meaning” have if it were dictated to us? If life’s meaning came only from some sort of ever-present quasi-benevolent universal dictator, then it would no longer be meaning – it would be purpose. And when you have a purpose, you’re not free – you’re a tool to be used for the desired ends of some other being. (Cue Rick Warren.)
I have absolutely no problem with the idea that ultimate morality and ultimate meaning don’t actually exist. To argue that God must exist because these things are self-evidently real is to do nothing but beg the question. I’m not a nihilist; I just think it’s silly to assume that something exists because its existence would support your preconceived beliefs.