My question relates to Plato’s dialogue of Euthyphro; specifically, I am interested in the two alternatives Socrates presents in what is deemed as “good” or virtuous. Socrates points out that if what is good is good because god decrees it, then god’s choice is arbitrary: there is perhaps no distinction between good and evil for god; god simply wills what he does. On the other hand, if god wills what is good because it is good, then morality is in some sense independent of or separate from god; we humans need only find out what is good, which we can do without god or religion. If, however, considering the first of these two options, god were to decree something good (like not committing murder), is this not sufficient to objectify goodness for us? If god decreeing that murder is “bad” is indeed an arbitrary choice for god, does it follow that it is arbitrary for humans?

I think I see what you mean. But if I do, then the phrase "arbitrary for humans" is not exactly the way to pose your question. Humans aren't really making the choice in your scenario. So, the choice is neither arbitrary nor non-arbitrary for them. I think you might rather mean something like: Would God's arbitrarily commanding any conduct provide sufficient grounds for humans to regard that conduct as good? My sense is that the qualities of a lot of religious faith lead people to answer in the affirmative. In particular, for the faithful it's likely to be almost inconceivable to defy God's command on grounds that what's commanded seems immoral from a merely human point of view. The story of Abraham and Isaac exemplifies just this sort tendency in faith. The problem is that it seems to many at least as intolerable to accept that stealing, rape, mass murder, etc. could ever be acceptable. For example, many will find it intolerable to honor a command to torture, molest, mutilate, and kill innocent children--no matter who issues the command. This is just what the philosopher Kierkegaard predicted that those motivated by ethical reasoning would say about the faithful's acceptance of Abraham's conduct. Furthermore, the faithful's acceptance of divine commands to do what otherwise seems immoral exhibits for many others an unacceptable deference to authority--a kind of submission that plays out in authoritarianism in politics and family life. For my own part, the burden here lies with the faithful. Before we accept that the results of our own best efforts to determine what's good and bad may be thrown over by divine command, I think the faithful need to provide us with reasons why divine commands can always trump human moral judgments. So far as I can see, there are no reasons to think divine commands are sufficient to trump our best judgments. That God created us, that God is so much greater than us, and that God understands so much more than us just don't provide grounds for following commands to perform what seem to us to be the horrible of acts.

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