Am I Just Phrasing The Concept Badly?

To call something an inherent good is to say, at some level, that an intellectual examination of a moral value has reached a stopping point.  But it is certainly possible to at least try to explain why something is held to be an inherent moral good.  One could argue in terms of consequence — to give money to charity is morally good because it relieves another human being’s suffering, and the lack of suffering is to be morally preferred to suffering.  Or one could argue in terms of reciprocal duty — to give money to charity is morally good because were one to be in a position to have to rely on charity, one would prefer that others had made donations so that the charity could be effective.  Maybe I’ve picked a bad example here — perhaps I should be examining why the lack of suffering is morally preferable to the presence of suffering, or why I should care about a hypothetical role-reversal situation.  But even so, you can get at least a shadow of an idea from these two explanations about why giving to charity is a moral good.

What’s the point of that concept?  I’ve noticed that whenever I get into a discussion with an apologist, I am never, ever told that worshiping Jehovah is an inherently moral thing to do.  Nor will the apologist ever react to my contention that his or her claims are based on the idea that worship or belief are inherently morally good.  Instead, the apologist usually (at least to my impression) winds up tied in knots trying to explain why things which are obviously morally bad are, in fact, morally good so as to avoid the undesirable result of concluding that [pick one or more: Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, the Bible, religion, faith] are sometimes morally bad.

Am I just not expressing myself well?  Is the concept of “inherent moral worth of belief” too obscure or too abstract an idea?  Or has it just been a coincidence that dozens of apologists over the years have been so concerned about responding to other parts my arguments that they’ve let this one fly by?  That seems unlikely.

Well, I want to take on that point directly.  Believers — do you contend that worship and/or belief, by itself and with all other factors of human behavior being equal, elevates the moral worth of the believer?  If so, can you offer up at least some idea of why that should be the case?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.

  2. Is my question prolix? I plead nolo contendere. But that doesn't mean the question was answered.

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