Dennis Prager put out another one of his shitty Prager University videos that is just a conservative hack going through a presentation of the moral argument for god's existence.
Hemant tries to give a takedown of the argument and he mangles it - badly.
This in itself isn't really noteworthy - lots of atheists fuck up responding to apologetic arguments. I've done it tons of times. When that happens, I hope someone comes along and points out where I've made an error and that's what I'm attempting to do here for Hemant.
The real reason that I felt prompted to write a post about it is that Hemant is falling right into the kind of trap Prager and his ilk want to bait atheists into: Hemant's post appears to embrace moral relativism. It's chock full with cringe worthy quotes that I'm sure apologists are salivating to quote one of the Internet's most popular atheist writers as saying:
"Yes, morality is relative. Vegetarians think killing animals is unethical, and many Christians would disagree with that. Who’s right? There are people who oppose abortion for the same reason, yet many would argue it’s immoral to limit women’s choices. Absolutely morality suggests there’s a right and wrong to ethical questions that are full of nuance."
"What would you rather have? Religious believers who believe in absolute morality yet frequently break those rules (hello, Catholic priests)? Or atheists who don’t believe in absolute morality but mostly play by the Golden Rule?"
First off for Hemant - Moral relativism as a position is self defeating and unintelligible.
Second - does Hemant really want to endorse a position where if challenged by some religious believer that he doesn't believe "Torturing babies for fun is always wrong"? Because that's a moral absolute statement.
If there is no kind of objective morality, then you can't make very simple moral statements like the one above. Please don't be a representative for atheism and make it look like atheists can't justify absolute moral statements like "Torturing babies for fun is always wrong". It makes us look like monsters, especially to believers we're otherwise trying to convince that atheists are decent people.
There are parts of the article that seem to attempt at giving an objective basis for establishing something as right or wrong - but that's because the article appears to be entirely confused. Consider this quote:
"Prager goes on to say that atheists can be good, adding that that doesn’t negate his argument. But of course it does."
The fact that atheists can be good doesn't refute Prager's argument. Prager's argument is that atheists don't have a basis for objective moral values - the entire point of the argument is that by believing in objective morality atheists implicitly assume a god exists.
This doesn't mean Prager has a good argument, it just means that Hemant doesn't know how to respond to it properly.
I recall Hemant saying in the past that he doesn't like philosophy very much. The problem is that if he's going to attempt to do takedowns of shitty apologetic arguments like the ones out of Prager, he's necessarily doing philosophy - and since he isn't well versed in the subject he's doing it very poorly in a way that paints all us atheists in a bad light.
Luckily for Hemant there are some very well educated atheists on his own blog network who have written some fantastic things about atheistic objective moral values:
Here is Jeff Lowder's excellent Primer on Religion and Morality.
If you want something more specific here is Dan Fincke's detailed explanation and defense of his own naturalistic ethics.
I've got my own responses to Prager's argument spread across two videos (one and two), though I admit I need to go through and create a new set of short videos outlining the best points from that project.
Hemant is one of the faces of atheism online and in our larger community - and for good reason! He's got an excellent blog and provides a ton of normally great resources for atheists online.
But when he messes up something like this apologists will probably gleefully quote his blog to paint all of us atheists in a bad light, and it doesn't need to be this way.
I realize the resources I've linked to are long, detailed, and well hard. Because moral philosophy is a really hard subject. At a minimum even if Hemant doesn't want to go through the plethora of material on atheistic moral value systems he should at least point out the fact that they exist to his readers.
This fact alone refutes Pragers argument, because we can derive atheist compatible accounts of objective moral values and duties.