Morality can exist independently of God

V. Is God indispensable for morality? No other argument for the existence or for the belief in the existence of God is as widespread in our contemporary society as the view that there is a close, indispensable connection between belief in God and morality. We want to call this argument, which is not based on purely theoretical but rather practical considerations, the "moral" argument for the existence of God. The commonplace comments on relevant topics in the respected daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine show in an impressive way how it goes without saying that most opinion leaders in our society emphasize the necessary connection between morality and belief in God at every opportunity. For example, the editor Kurt Reumann writes in his leading article with the title “Without God everything is permitted”: “The reference to God is the anchor not only of the constitution, but also of all meaning, of all morality”. The "warning" expressed in the title, according to which no morality is possible without belief in God, is now "more necessary than ever". Basically, the skeptics also know as well as the Christians, "how much religion is of benefit to life in this world: Faith establishes moral values, it awakens willingness to help, strengthens a sense of community, gives security, creates meaning" 1994, p. 1). This point of view, for which there is a multitude of evidence from the mouths of public figures, is even more a matter of course for trained theologians. For example, she defends Peter Beier, head of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, in an interview entitled "A people without God has no future" (Christ and Welt, April 1, 1994, p. 24); and the Viennese Archbishop and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn emphasizes “that religion is 'indispensable' for democracy” (Kurier, October 8, 1998, p. 1). The famous Catholic theologian Hans Küng even calls for a final theological justification of ethics from the 51 He asserts: «Only such an ultimate foundation of ethos in God makes that inviolable value, that inviolable dignity and inalienable freedom of man appear justified, which a liberal society simply has to presuppose if they are not drowned in the nihilism of allowing everything to apply wants to overturn a totalitarianism ”(Küng II, p. 639). The official Catholic side in particular repeatedly points out how inseparably morality and belief in God are linked with one another. For example, to explain the biblical words about fools who deny God (Psalms 53: 2): “The fool we are talking about is not a stupid person, but a cheeky and wicked person. He doesn't care about God, doesn't want to know him, isn't afraid of his judgment. He speaks and acts as if God did not exist, as if he himself were God. He is haughty, despises the truth and tramples righteousness »(Catholic Adult Catechism, p. 26). On critical examination, however, it turns out that the moral argument expressed in this view is by far the weakest of all arguments for the existence of God. In order to recognize this in detail, we absolutely have to distinguish between two versions of the argument, which in its popular version (as shown above) are almost always mixed up or merged without any differentiation. In version 1 the argument is: Without belief in God, moral norms or demands cannot be justified. Without this belief, morality hangs theoretically in the air. In version 2, on the other hand, the argument is: Without belief in God, people will not behave morally or to a lesser extent in reality, even if morality can be justified without it. Without this belief, people are not adequately equipped and motivated for everyday moral life. Let us now discuss these two versions of the argument that belief in God is indispensable for morality. 52 1. The moral justification According to a famous dictum by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, if there is no God, everything is allowed to man (Dostoyevsky, p. 97 f. And p. 860 f.). This dictum is certainly not to be understood in such a way that without God there are no norms of law and social morality in society that dictate human beings. Rather, what is meant is that without God everything is allowed in the sense that man, completely independent of worldly rules and sanctions, in any case has no good reason to submit to any norms in the pursuit of his egoistic impulses, that basically everything to him without God allowed is. If this thesis is correct, it could be of importance for the question of God. A logical consequence of the proposition that when there is no God everything is allowed is that when everything is not allowed there is a God. But since we are consistently convinced that basically not everything is allowed, according to the thesis we must also believe in the existence of God. In this respect, Dostoyevsky's thesis, if it is correct, offers a coherent argument for the assumption of the existence of God. But is this thesis correct? Is the assumption of the existence of God indispensable for the justification of morality? This question is controversial. To this day it has been affirmed by both theologians and some philosophers. For example, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1959), the "natural moral law" is nothing more than the "work of the Creator" and as such represents "the indispensable moral basis for the building up of human community". In other words, without a creator god there would be no basis for morality. This assertion is also regularly encountered in the proclamation of the Christian churches. And the philosopher Robert Spaemann explains quite bluntly, in the spirit of Dostoyevsky, "that everything is permitted if God does not exist" (Spaemann, p. 105). However, this position that belief in God is indispensable for the justification of morality is exposed to various serious objections. 1. There is more than one serious attempt at justifying morality that does without any reference to God. It is true that I cannot pursue the moral-philosophical question of justification in the present publication. However, I have discussed the most important attempts at secular moral justification in my book Ethics and Interest (Hoerster I, passim) and in this context I myself defended a completely metaphysics-free, namely interest-based point of view. In any case, Spaemann's position is hardly represented by professional philosophers today. 2. A closer examination shows that the hypothesis of the existence of God is not only dispensable for the justification of morality, but - at least as the sole basis of the justification of morality - is not even suitable. This is shown by the following considerations. The supporters of Dostoyevsky's thesis are convinced that the morality binding for man is completely identical with norms established by God for man. It is secondary whether, according to this point of view, God already issued the norms with creation (in the form of a so-called natural law) or only later (in the form of express commandments). The critical question we need to ask is the same in both cases: can divine norms actually adequately substantiate our morality? In order to be able to assert this, we must first of all assume that God, insofar as he exists, has actually issued norms - norms whose content we can recognize. Because it is impossible for us to align our morals according to norms that do not even exist or whose content is not known to us. The above assumption, which clearly goes beyond the mere assumption of the existence of God, will occupy us in more detail in the following chapter (p. 69 ff.). In the present context, we simply want to assume they are correct. Secondly, however, we must quite obviously start from the fact that the divine being we hold to be existent is not only the origin of the world, but also - as God understood as monotheistic - is morally perfect. Because a creator of the world who is not perfect in every respect, i.e. also morally, would not be identical with the God of monotheism under discussion (see above, p. 13). But can we now claim of a creator of the world that he is morally perfect without already assuming a certain idea of ​​moral perfection - and thus also of well-founded morality? Obviously not. But this means: Even our assumption of the existence of God is impossible without a moral value judgment necessarily entering into this assumption. But if that is true, then we cannot at the same time derive all our moral standards from the existence of God or from his commandments! Otherwise we would be going in circles. There is no meaningful way to say about someone that they are good and that they are at the same time the only standard of good. This statement could only mean that the person concerned is following his own standards and norms. But by asserting the goodness of God we certainly mean more than that. So the objection is not primarily that it is difficult for us to find out whether the assumed divine being is actually good or not. Rather, it says that on the assumption that every justification of morality is necessarily based on God, the assertion of God's goodness loses its significance. Consider the following comparative case. A football expert says Felix Magath is the model of a good coach; every young trainer who wants to become a good trainer should orientate himself on Felix Magath. This statement is certainly a comprehensible and completely meaningful - perhaps even correct - statement. Obviously, all of this can only apply under one condition that our football expert takes for granted: the condition that we already have an idea of ​​what makes a good coach (e.g. that he forms a successful team from mediocre players). , and that this notion cannot simply refer to Felix Magath's training methods. Their positive evaluation makes this idea possible in the first place. The hypothesis of the existence of God is therefore not at all suitable to provide the desired all-encompassing moral justification. To summarize the reason for this again: In order for us to be able to set up the hypothesis at all, it is essential that we already have a certain standard of good and bad. For without this standard the assumption that the existing divine norm-giver is also perfectly good would be empty and meaningless. The norms of a divine being, however, whose moral quality is simply left open, nevertheless to be recognized as a source of well-founded morality, would - instead of a successful moral justification - be nothing more than the height of moral irrationality. We would not accept the orders of an earthly ruler as a guideline for our moral judgments. After all this, we cannot agree with the moral argument for the existence of God in the version according to which no moral justification is possible without the assumption of the existence of God. This does not mean, of course, that the assumption of the existence of God cannot be of relevance for the establishment of individual moral norms (see p. 68 for more details). 2. Moral behavior Even if belief in God is neither necessary nor sufficient for the justification of morality, it could nevertheless be necessary or at least beneficial for human moral behavior. It could be the case that the religious belief of monotheistic religious communities has a decisive positive effect on the moral conduct of the believers in practice. Is such an assumption justified? At this point, too, it becomes apparent that one can only pursue the question in a meaningful way if one assumes a somewhat specific idea of ​​well-founded morality. Because one must have a criterion of the morally good that is independent of religion itself in order to then measure the moral effects of religion. What could this criterion look like? Fortunately, the philosophical-secular justification theories of morality, which are sometimes very different in their approach, come to a largely consistent result as far as their substantive result is concerned. This result can be roughly characterized as follows: The goal of an enlightened morality is the elementary needs and the interests of people in this world. Corresponding to this goal, each individual is granted certain individual rights - such as the right to life or the right to self-determination. Under these circumstances, the central demand of morality is that one should take into account these 56 rights of one's fellow human beings in all one's behavior. One consequence of this demand is, for example, that one must not prevent anyone from forming his own worldview and from shaping his personal life according to this worldview. For the sake of simplicity, we want to refer to such a morality as it is now widely recognized in the western world as a "humane morality": a morality that was created by man for man. We can now formulate the initial question of this section as follows: Does the religious belief of the monotheistic religious communities of Judaism, Christianity and Islam actually have a positive effect on the behavior of believers in terms of humane morality? One should be clear from the outset that this question can at best be answered in a very limited sense in several respects. 1. One can answer the question with some certainty only in relation to the past, but not in relation to the future which is still open. 2. Any answer to the question assumes a familiarity with the history of the religion in question. For this reason alone, my following remarks on the question will essentially be restricted to Christianity. 3. Even if one had a thorough knowledge of all the relevant historical facts, he would hardly be able to give a definitive answer to the question, which is clearly a matter of balancing conflicting evidence. Because the only thing that can be said with certainty is that the religions mentioned have so far in reality had both a multitude of positive and a multitude of negative effects on the morality of believers. Of course, for reasons of space, it is completely out of the question to review the history of Christianity and its moral effects in this book. At this point I will therefore only use examples to point out some basic points that are often overlooked in the debate about the moral effects of monotheistic religion. That Christianity has had negative effects on the moral behavior of believers in its history is no longer denied by its followers either. 57 Just to name a few examples, think of the centuries-old practices of burning heretics and witches or the persecution of Jews and homosexuals. These practices, however, as it is repeatedly said in defense of the moral argument, are ecclesiastical historical aberrations of the Christian faith, which have nothing to do with its actual, true nature, and even contradict it. However, this defense is not convincing in two respects. For one thing, the actual effects of the Christian religion with which we are concerned do not change because they do not correspond to the true nature of that religion. On the other hand, as far as not a few negative effects of Christianity are concerned, it can be asserted that these effects correspond to the true nature of this religion. In any case, this is true if the criterion for what constitutes the true essence of a religion is primarily based on the traditional teachings of this religion which are the content of its holy scriptures. The holy scriptures of Christianity, however, are known to be the Bible, which for believers in Christians is without reservation the "Word of God". Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (n. 140): «The Old Testament prepares the new, while the latter completes the old. Both illuminate one another; both are true word of God. " And in the Dogmatic Constitution on the divine revelation "Dei verbum" through the 2ndThe Vatican Council (1965) says that “the books of both the Old and the New Testament in their entirety with all their parts. . . written on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. . ., Having God as the author »(Denzinger, no. 4215). It goes without saying that, under this condition, any selection within the biblical texts according to any inner-worldly criteria is forbidden - as Martin Luther aptly put it: «Completely and without exception, believed completely and everything, or believed nothing. The Holy Spirit cannot be separated nor divided, that he should teach one piece truthfully and the other wrongly or make one believe ”(Luther, vol. 54, p. 158). The following examples may show that certain negative effects of Christianity in the field of morality correspond to the sacred scriptures of this religion. 58 The cremation of "heretics" or people of other faith is not yet required in the Bible. Nevertheless, such people are very clearly morally disqualified and presented as inferior in the Bible. Here are a few examples: «For there are many disobedients, gossips and swindlers, especially among those who come from Judaism. These people have to be silenced. . . They assert that they know God, but by doing what they do they deny him; they are hideous and incorrigible people who are not fit for anything good »(Titus 1: 10-16). And further: «These cheeky and presumptuous people do not shy away from blaspheming the supernatural powers. . . But these people are like unreasonable animals that are naturally born to be captured and perish. They gossip about things they don't understand; but they will perish as the animals perish »(2 Peter 2: 10-12). Also clearly: "Whoever does not love the Lord be cursed!" (1 Corinthians 16:22). Compare with these passages the above quotation (p. 52) from the book Catholic Catechism for Adults. According to the Bible, those people are at a particularly low level who, after having believed, turn away from the faith again: “They had escaped the filth of the world because they had known the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; but if they let themselves be caught and overwhelmed by it again, then in the end things will be worse for them than before. . . The washed sow rolls around in the dirt again »(2 Peter 2: 20–22). Correspondingly, two brothers in faith who have meanwhile "suffered shipwreck in faith" are "handed over to Satan" by the apostle Paul, so that they "learn through this punishment not to blaspheme God any more" (1 Timothy 1: 19-20). Even Jesus himself does not lack clarity in a warning to his disciples: “Whoever does not remain in me will be thrown away like the branch and he will wither. The branches are gathered, they are thrown into the fire and they are burned ”(John 15: 6). As far as "witches" are concerned, the Bible says unequivocally: "You shall not let a witch live" (Exodus 22:17). And even the biblical verdict on homosexuals does not exactly correspond to the tolerance requirements of humane morality: “If someone sleeps with a man as one sleeps with a woman, then they have committed an atrocity; both are punishable by death; their blood shall come upon them »(Leviticus 20:13; similarly also Leviticus 18:22). In all these cases, those responsible for centuries of ecclesiastical persecution of diverse minorities can very well refer to the Holy Scriptures of Christianity, which they have consistently always done. But also in the religious pronouncements of the popes and other church leaders there are repeated calls to persecute and discriminate against minorities and those of different faiths. A few sentences from Luther, who, in the opinion of his followers, reformed the Christian faith in a positive sense, may serve as an example. Most of the sentences are in his writing About the Jews and their Lies - a writing in which he directs demands to the authorities on how to deal with the Jews. Luther demands, among other things, that the synagogues and schools of the Jews "should be set on fire and, what does not want to burn, be covered with earth and poured down so that no one sees a stone or slag of it forever"; He also demands that the houses of the Jews be "broken up and destroyed". But those who were then homeless should be "put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies, so that they know that they are not masters in our country." Since these people have "stolen and stolen from us" everything they have, in future they should have "no protection, shield, guidance, or community" so that "we can all get rid of the intolerable, diabolical burden of the Jews" (Luther , Vol. 53, p. 523 ff.). For Luther, as he makes clear in more than one place in his work, the Jews are nothing more than the devil's henchmen: "For the devil has possessed and captured the Jews that they must be of his will" (Luther, vol. 53, P. 601). Even a Protestant theologian believes he has to state in view of these and similar quotations: Luther's demands for dealing with the Jews "largely coincide with the instructions on the Reichskristallnacht that Joseph Goebbels issued in November 1938" (see Luther Reader, p. 112). It is not surprising that the National Socialists repeatedly invoked the reformer for their actions against the Jews; Such clear demands were not to be found in Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf. 60 That Luther's anti-Semitism is not only linked to a long church tradition, as is well known, but can also refer to the New Testament, may be shown by the following sentences which Jesus addressed to the Jews: “You have the devil for your father and you want to do what your father asks. He was a murderer from the start. And he's not in the truth. . . for he is a liar and is the father of lies. . . He who is of God hears the words of God; you do not hear them because you are not from God »(John 8: 44–47). But not only in the context of the Christian religion, but also in the authoritative writings of the other two monotheistic world religions, there are historically effective passages that are far removed from the core elements of a humane morality. The Old Testament, which is binding for the Jewish religion, not only contains the demand for punitive retribution of the kind "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (Leviticus 24:20). This requirement is even extended to people (and other living beings) who are not at all to blame for the previous wrong, which is to be repaid: «Thus says the Lord of Armies: I have observed what Amalek did to Israel: it has happened put in his way when Israel came up out of Egypt. So go to battle now and defeat Amalek! Consecrate everything that belongs to him! Don't spare it, but kill men and women, children and babies, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys! " (1 Samuel 15: 1-3). And in the Koran, the holy text of Islam, it says: "But when the holy months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and pack them and besieged them and lie in wait for them in every ambush" (The Koran, sura 9/5, p. 181). To see how much the believers still hold these texts in high esteem, one only needs to look at the longstanding practices of the State of Israel against the human rights of innocent people and terrorist attacks by fanatical Islamists. It is true that at least within Western societies, which today are largely shaped by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the inhuman and intolerant effects of Christian faith have lost a lot of their importance. The 61 foreign policy pursued by the United States of America under its President George W. Bush has made it very clear that this development is not necessarily irreversible (Singer, Chapters 5 and 10, revealing in this respect). It is also noticeable that the Christian churches in these societies, in order to preserve their numerous privileges and not get sidelined, often no longer publicly represent their genuine moral ideals, but tacitly disclose them. In our country, to name just one example, even “Christian” politicians boast about their “immorality” in talk shows and similar events of their “companions” with whom they live in adulterous fellowship without a bishop thinking about it To reprimand the way of life. Remember: “Christ condemns adultery in the spirit. The sixth commandment and the New Testament absolutely forbid adultery. The prophets denounce it as a grave offense. They regard adultery as a reflection of sinful idolatry ”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2380 with reference to numerous biblical passages). On this point, too, the reformer took the Holy Scriptures very seriously: "It is the fault of the authorities, why not strangle adulterers?" (Luther, Vol. 10, Second Section, p. 289). By the way: Adultery was a criminal offense in the Federal Republic of Germany until 1969, in Switzerland until 1989 and in Austria until 1996. As already said: In its history, Christianity has certainly had positive effects on humane morality in addition to negative ones. Think of the charitable institutions that Christians founded or supported with trust in Matthew 5: 7 ("Blessed are the merciful; for they will find mercy"). It would be presumptuous, in terms of an overall balance sheet, to take for granted that the negative effects weigh more heavily. However, this warning goes both ways. Nor should it be taken for granted that the positive effects are more serious. The supporter of the moral argument for the existence of God (in its second version) depends on this assertion. If there is a certain probability that belief in God is not necessary or at least predominantly beneficial for moral behavior, then the argument lacks a convincing premise. So it must fail for that reason alone. 62 In addition, there is the following fundamental point, which I have not yet addressed. Suppose the above premise is convincing. What would the truth be? It would certainly not follow that God exists or that belief in God is in any way theoretically justified. It would only follow that, for practical reasons, it would appear to be welcomed that people believe in God. But this raises the question: Can one believe in the existence of a God - who reward or punish people - only in order to lead a more moral life? This does not seem plausible. In any case, this would be difficult for people who are generally rational. If it is my real concern to behave decently, then I will hardly be able to promote this concern by imagining as real sanctions - be they worldly or divine - the reality of which I was not previously convinced. The fact that many people actually believe in God and His commandments is no evidence of such a possibility. Because these people are usually cognitive, i.e. theoretically, convinced that God exists (which does not mean that this conviction is necessarily mediated by arguments). Realistically speaking, it is unlikely that a person will choose to believe in God just to strengthen his morale, and also that, even if he does, he will actually believe in God that way. It is quite a different matter, however, to induce other people to believe in God for practical reasons in order to optimize their moral behavior. In principle, this appears possible and also promising - and fully in line with what has just been said. One only has to succeed in somehow getting these people to be theoretically convinced of the existence of God. If this conviction is connected with certain assumptions about God's rewards and punishments on the other side, it can certainly not be ruled out that this monotheistic belief also influences moral behavior. Whether this influence is of course predominantly in the direction of humane morality remains questionable, although this naturally depends on the respective content of the religiously mediated morality. 63 If ​​someone like Voltaire writes: "If God did not exist, one would have to invent him" (Voltaire, p. 90), he has the expectation that a humane morality, which is independent of any religion in its content, nevertheless, for psychological reasons, is dependent on the belief in a God and his otherworldly sanctions. This assumption seems extremely dubious. As I have shown in detail elsewhere, there is more than one consideration of a purely inner-worldly nature, which speaks for the individual to a large extent in favor of adopting those moral norms, from whose social validity he like everyone else, also as his own and to be followed regularly (see Hoerster I, chapter 9). The more modest assumption that belief in God has the effect of something like an additional strengthening of their moral behavior in some people certainly has something of its own. It is certainly an interesting question whether someone who does not believe in God himself would do well to convey belief in God to the best of his ability to those around him (for example his children) for the reason mentioned. Obviously, however, this is not a question of the reasonableness of belief in God; for, as we have seen, the person concerned will hardly be able to believe in God for this reason. In this respect, the question is not the subject of this book. The question, for its part, is a moral question: Is it justified or even advisable to convey to other people ideas about reality that are factually incorrect or at least considered unfounded in order to strengthen their moral behavior, i.e. to lie to them? Anyone who would like to deal with this question in a rational way will not be able to avoid including the following aspects in his considerations: 1. How great is the danger that with belief in God inevitably those moral norms with a humane morality are also received not in line? 2. What other effects does belief in God's otherworldly sanctions have on the human psyche, and how are these further effects to be assessed? (See also p. 84 f.) While I am closing this chapter, I come across a current article on the problem of the public presence of the Christian cross symbol. In defense of such a presence, it is said there that our state “system of reliable basic values”, which “also protects minorities”, comes “from Christian tradition”; the “sign of the cross” is thus the “anchor point for a relaxed, even happy life” (according to philosophy professor Albert Keller SJ in Bayernkurier on April 8, 2004, p. 2). Such a thesis does not gain in persuasiveness even because it has been repeated in our society for years at every opportunity that presents itself. (See the quotations above, p. 51 f.) VI. Does belief in God give our life meaning? Quite a few theists and even some theologians admit on closer inspection that moral norms can in principle also be justified without reference to God and that people can in principle have sufficient motivation for moral behavior even without belief in God. Nonetheless, the same theists usually believe that for various practical reasons we are doing well and accordingly better off if we believe in God. Some theists expressly argue that these practice-related reasons make it rational for us to postulate the existence of God, regardless of whether it is theoretically sufficiently founded or not. One can argue about whether it can be considered rational at all to make any assumptions about reality in the form of postulates for purely practical reasons. I do not want to pursue the question in this general form. Perhaps an affirmative answer to it is at least justifiable if the assumption in question about reality is completely open from a theoretical point of view, that is, if there are no theoretically sufficient reasons for or against this assumption. It is precisely in this sense that it is not uncommon to assert today: “One cannot prove the existence of God; but neither can it be refuted. In these circumstances it is advisable to believe in God simply because that belief gives meaning to our lives. " We want to call this argument the "argument of meaning" for the existence of God.Whether the existence of God, from a theoretical point of view, is actually as probable or plausible as his nonexistence can be decided by every reader on the basis of our considerations in Chapters II to IV. In this chapter we want the assertion about the theoretical stalemate in the question of God - as well as the principle admissibility of a practice-related 66