This paper was written and presented in response to the Call for Papers for the 2018 Oxford Symposium in Religious Studies in Oxford, England. The paper has an index of themes found in the footnotes to aid the reader’s understanding of the paper’s themes and to access Kant’s discussion of them.
A pdf version with page numbers and footnotes (instead of end notes) is available here: God is Necessary to be Good
“God is Necessary to be Good” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies
August 2, 2018
God is Necessary to be Good!
This paper proposes that, although one best avoid invoking an anthropomorphic deity, belief in God is, nonetheless, a necessary assumption for the exercising of humanity’s moral capacity. This invokes the notion of the “good,” which will be parsed according to an amoral, a categorical, and a hypothetical good that grounds (or is necessary for) autonomous freedom’s ability to intentionally initiate sequences of events that, otherwise, nature on its own cannot accomplish, which, in turn, makes moral effort possible. Denial of this set of themes is, of course, conceivable, but methodological skepticism’s Copernican Turn points out that such scoffing amounts to misanthropy.
The paper rejects both moral “naturalism,” which proposes that morality is the mere consequence of successfully negotiating a social world to accomplish one’s ends, and Utilitarian “consequentialism,” which involves violating human dignity and fostering ignorance to the benefit, especially, of a privileged elite. Rather than reduce morality to teleology, the paper will propose the crucial elements exposed by an archaeology of humanity’s autonomous capacity for understanding its dependence upon God in order to be good – without succumbing to speculative, heteronomous theonomy.