Would Knowledge of God Undermine Morality?

"Waiting for the Word", (cc by 2.0)

Helen De Cruz draws on some interesting insights from the cognitive science of religion to examine a popular response to an argument against God’s existence called The Problem of Divine Hiddenness.

The basic argument is that a loving God would make his/her presence obviously known to us. Why? Because a loving God would want a loving personal relationship with us, and that’s only possible if we are in a position to know with reasonable certainty that God exists.

One kind of response to this argument is that if God’s presence were obvious, it would undermine our ability to make morally significant choices, because we wouldn’t feel free to decide how to act. We’d feel compelled to always act in a particular way. Mike Murray endorses this kind of response (Shameless plug alert: So do some other philosophers)

De Cruz examines some recent work on the cognitive science of religion, and draws on it to consider whether the above line of response is a good one. It turns out that there is some evidence, but the results are rather mixed. If people believe in a vengeful God, and are reminded about God (or a primed with spiritual words) they are less likely to cheat or act immorally in various ways. However, this is not true if people’s beliefs about God emphasize a more loving and forgiving God. Her full post is an interesting read. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Would the obvious existence of a God make it difficult for you to freely choose how to act (and thus be unable to make morally significant choices), or would you still feel free to act?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone