The Question of Subjective Morality and Human Value

A few days ago, I received this comment from Heather, who wrote:
Ravi is either not being honest here, or doesn't fully understand the atheists view on value.  Sure, its subjective, but so are a lot of the sports in the olympics.  Most people can agree that a 9.7 high dive is better then someone tripping off the high dive board and doing a belly flop - even though its all subjective.

Ravi's response wouldn't be as clever or as good if there was an atheist up there next to him discussing ethics and humanism.  Straw man arguments are easy to dismantle...

If anyone is interested in discussing objective/subjective morality as it relates to this particular video, I'd love to give my side.
My response is below, and I invite anyone wanting to discuss this subject with us to comment (but please keep things respectful, and please watch the video before commenting):

Hi Heather,

Thank you for your comment. I would be happy to discuss this with you albeit in a dialogue (not debate) format.

First, I think it is important to realize where Ravi is coming from. He stated, "If atheism is true, she has no value.... she has no reference point." There are two points which might help to illustrate this statement. Firstly, if atheism is true, then there are only two options: either man evolved from slim (as evolution teaches)-- and therefore has no value -- or man is his own "god" (humanism) and people have value in their own eyes. But this brings us to the point of morality.

Morality goes much deeper than just "we can all agree that this is better than that"; morality is a distinction between right and wrong. Who decides what's right and wrong? In humanism, right and wrong are constantly changing, because each person decides what is "right" to him. Therefore, if a person has value in a humanist's eyes, that is subject to change from person to person. If I say "murder is wrong," but someone else doesn't value a person (i.e. seriel killer), he will do it anyway... because it's right to him. That is what subjective morality looks like. However, I think we can both agree that rape is wrong, that murder is wrong, etc; if we can both agree -- and most others will agree on this, as well -- then this implies that there is an objective moral law -- guidelines for us to follow. Therefore, there must be a lawgiver -- a person (and it must be a person, because morality always refers to people); I believe that this Lawgiver is God. (Ever heard of the 10 Commandments? See Exodus 20.) Now, the seriel killer may have decided that his killing of innocent people is not wrong, but this does not mean that is right. What makes him wrong? Where did the standard come from? It certainly didn't come from any earthly human; there are cannibal tribes out there and to them, cannibalism is perfectly fine. Put them in an environment where it is wrong to cannibalize, and they will do it anyway. Try telling them that it is wrong, and they won't hear you!

And this brings me back to Ravi's original point: In Christianity, people have VALUE, and in particular, women have value. Every other man-made replacement diminishes man's value. Once again, who decides that women have value? Throughout Jewish history, up until the time of Christ, women were thought of as second class citizens and their word counted as nothing. But not only did Jesus give the woman who had supposedly committed adultery value, but He also gave the Samaritan -- the despised Jewish "half-breed" -- value and chose women to be the first to witness His resurrection! Today, we have so many women trying to "be somebody," working many hours on jobs, whereas there is value in a woman's status as the mother and keeper of the home (not that woman can't have jobs); many women don't feel valued, they feel as though they have to "measure up" to the man's job. We have Femenist groups petitioning for "women's rights" when God has already given women the highest mark of value: He created us all -- man and woman -- in His image. Just because we don't feel valued does not mean that we aren't; God loves us so much! (And I would also venture to say that just because we don't believe in God doesn't mean that He doesn't value us.) In fact, the point about Eve having pain in childbearing proving women unvaluable to God is really not a point at all. When God told Eve that she would be punished for her sin in childbirth, even this shows how much God values women; for God could have said that this was the end of the human race -- that Eve would never have children, that she would die on the spot (which didn't happen, by the way; Adam and Eve died spiritually before their actual death many years later) -- yet, He not only allowed her to have children, but He also promised her that through her would be born the Seed, Jesus Christ (see Genesis 3:15)! There is hope in that statement alone to show how much God valued Eve. This is why abortion is wrong. I know that there are numerous opinions on this topic, but my point is that if God valued Eve enough to let her have children after she openly sinned against Him, then this also shows how much God values children (there are other Scriptures to base this one besides this one). If our values did not come from God -- that is to say, if man were God, as humanism teaches -- I don't think that Eve would have lived past that mistake. See, we as humans know what is right and wrong, no matter how we try to excuse it; Eve knew that it was wrong to disobey God, yet she did it anyway. This does not make it right. Our values and our morals can only come from one place: God.

I know that as an atheist, you will most likely not agree with much of this, since you don't believe in God. However, I would restate what Ravi said (in my own words): if you look at Genesis 3 and then say that you will not believe in God (because He doesn't believe in you), not only are you borrowing from Judeo-Christian values (in order to make the statement that God does not value people), but I would add that you are also not reading far enough into the Bible -- you are stopping before you've seen the ending. Adam and Eve messed up, reaping the consequences and thereby allowing sin into the world. But God had a remedy; God valued people so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

"The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an EVERLASTING LOVE: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." ~ Jeremiah 31:3


  1. 'However, I think we can both agree that rape is wrong, that murder is wrong, etc; if we can both agree -- and most others will agree on this, as well -- then this implies that there is an objective moral law -- guidelines for us to follow. Therefore, there must be a lawgiver -- a person (and it must be a person, because morality always refers to people); I believe that this Lawgiver is God.'

    Morality is subjective and contextual that goes without saying. 50 years ago white and black people went to the toilet in different rooms and now you have a black president. Im an atheist and i don't rape, kill, steal or lie because my life will be affected by these actions. My contextual survival would be damaged. Its Darwinian. It just so happens that society has taken on a new layer of meaning and action which has kicked social Darwinism into play thus the strongest surviving takes a different form. There is nothing telling me that these things are wrong, they would just be bad for me individually however, there are some cases where i could kill, could steal and could lie. These have their own complex contextual paradigms. I.e euthanasia. These things are also a selfishness within me that allow me to survive in my environment. There are no voices or images from god that guide me.

    I have always found morality preached with the use of the commandments. A jealous, egotistical, selfish and morally corrupt God that has no real interst in human dignity or logical ethics.


    Incidentally, move on from the Jesus garb, lets just get on to disproving god so we can get back to our lunch.

  2. Dear Playdolf: You can argue all you want to that morality is subjective and contextual, but here's where the defining point is: whether or not murder or rape is wrong is NEVER subjective to the VICTIM. Anyone on any place on this earth feels deeply wronged when lied to and stolen from. "Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not murder..." these are all beneficial to us, don't you see? They are far from restrictive. God does all things for our good! Whereas the "morals" of Hitler and Marx have wreaked unspeakable havoc on humanity, the places of the world where Christianity is it's heritage thrive. Jesus stood up for the oppressed and rebuked the oppressors constantly, yet He did not resist when He Himself was so wrongfully tortured and executed.

    I know it is the desire of myself as well as my dear friend Miss Szymanski, who takes the time to write these posts for honest questioners like yourself, that you would realize that Jesus really, really cares about you as a person. Please look around you with an open mind, and I'm sure you'll see just how much He's done for you.


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