Divine Command Theory

 Posted by on 27 December 2006 at 4:50 pm  Uncategorized
Dec 272006

As much reading as I’ve done on religious conservatism of late, I must admit that I’m still shocked to see a leading conservative intellectual — Dinesh D’Souza — openly defend divine command theory. (Divine command theory is the moral view on which God’s will determines right and wrong. On that view, if God commands rape, pillage, and murder, then rape, pillage, and murder are morally obligatory.) In the course of his argument that the crimes of atheistic totalitarian governments vastly outstrip those of religious governments, D’Souza writes (with my emphasis added):

The crimes of atheism have generally been perpetrated through a hubristic ideology that sees man, not God, as the creator of values. Using the latest techniques of science and technology, man seeks to displace God and create a secular utopia here on earth. Of course if some people — the Jews, the landowners, the unfit, or the handicapped — have to be eliminated in order to achieve this utopia, this is a price the atheist tyrants and their apologists have shown themselves quite willing to pay. Thus they confirm the truth of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s dictum, “If God is not, everything is permitted.”

Without a doubt, communists slaughtered millions of people — due to their communism, not their atheism. The slaughter was made possible by the idea that individuals can and ought to be sacrificed for the sake of the “higher ideal” of the collective. Notably, serious religionists share the same basic view, although their “higher ideal” is the Kingdom of God. If they fully accept that the good is defined by God’s arbitrary will, they will commit any atrocity to achieve it, so long as they can find some rationalization in their barbaric holy texts. (Given what the Bible actually says, that’s easy enough!)

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