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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 24. October 1, 1968

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The two previous contributions have both evidenced some concern for matters relating to 'God', 'morality', 'rationality', 'humanity', the one wishing to sustain that these can only be given real meaning when seen from the stance of Christian Theism, the other denying this. I commend some of Mr. Pettigrew's criticisms of Mrs. Belding's article, which did indeed contain some rather sweeping, unsupported statements. The points I refer to are (i) The importance of being clear in the use of language, so that if by the word 'God' we mean 'order and rationality' or 'blue bananas', then we should make this quite explicit, (ii) The statements relating 'God' and 'rationality'. (iii) The problem of the 'moral structure of the universe and the schizophrenic character of God'.

These points were well made, and make a valuable contribution to the discussion, the essence of which, I would suggest, involves what is meant by the words 'God', 'morality'. 'rationality' and 'humanity'; what is referred to by these key words; and what kind of relationships, if any, exist between them.

It would appear from the way the argument has proceeded that both authors have similar ideas in mind when they get involved in discussion, so that they may proceed from a common basis to obtain genuine conclusions. However it is not as simple as this. Let me consider Mr. Pettigrew's article, which I shall examine carefully, mainly because the views which he holds are held widely and also have an appealing ring about them-Morals without God; concern for the here and now; hope based upon improving the conditions of man, etc.

He begins by making some very good points with regard to the use of the word 'God'. However, he does not appear to be aware that there are similar difficulties with the other key words of the discussion. Let us consider the way he uses 'rationality'. On the one hand he asserts 'It is quite logical for me to believe (as I do) in the rationality of the world without believing in God'. On the other hand he says 'I am quite happy to live with inconsistencies - they make life more interesting and allow for change'. It would seem that if the word 'rational' is used to refer to a statement which contains no inner inconsistency, and also fits within a larger framework of ideas without contradiction, then he does not always use it in this way. Also, within his last paragraph, though strongly disagreeing with Mrs. Belding, he does not wish to change her mind. Perhaps, therefore, we are to draw the conclusion that he is willing for two contradictory assertions to stand side by side, both being true.

Now, let us consider the way he uses 'morality'. He asserts that he can, 'without reference to God, develop a consistent morality to live by', By 'consistent morality', he could mean one of at least two things. Firstly he could mean a set of moral principles which are self-consistent and capable ot being put into practice. The tenets of apartheid as practised in South Africa, and the altitudes expressed in the article 'Interracial Sex Practice in America' in the last issue of Salient would seem, for instance, to qualify for these criteria. Also, the writer seems rather loathe to consider his own moral principles either better or wose than anyone else's, in particular, with any reference to a Christian view. Does he realise that the logic of this position leads him to tolerate apartheid, racism, and other 'inhumane' practices?

However, there is a second meaning that one could attribute to 'consistent morality', and that is an endeavour to bring one's own moral principles into line with the way the universe is-which, of course, opens up a much wider discussion, but one. I suggest, that if carried out could lead away from the path leading to merely subjective morals. For example, from the Christian position, if God is really there, then it would appear necessary, in bringing one's own moral principles into line with the universe the way it is, to consider just what kind of nature and attributes this God may have, and the possibility of his creating the universe with moral aspects, particularly as they relate to man. Thus I submit, that despite the seeming attractiveness of this position in which morals are entertained without God and a concern for humanity evidenced, there are certain dilemmas when one comes to operate with it in practice. Further, I should like to assert that these dilemmas come about for the following reasons:

On the one hand man, in himself, is aware that he thinks, and, in particular, that he can recognize rational statements. In this sense Man is rational. When he comes to think about the world in which he lives however he has to contemplate the question 'Do my rational categories apply to it?'. On the other hand, man is aware of making choices, which, to some degree at least, he makes upon the basis of a commitment to wider principles which guide his choice in the light of the possible outcomes which confront him in a given situation, and it would seem that he is not unaware that in acting himself, or in evaluating the actions and intentions of others the particular possibilities are not to be confronted on the basis of tossing coins. In this sense Man is moral.

Again, however, when he comes to confront the problem of giving meaning to these moral movements within himself, and to act, and judge the actions of others within a larger context there looms up the problem of what validity these have beyond himself.

Thus we could set up the dilemma as follows:

1. Man is rational:

Does his rationality apply to the universe in which he finds himself?

2. Man is moral:

How does he apply these moral movements upon basic issues which do not involve himself?

3. Man has an idea of God:

Does God exist?

Further, we make the following empirical observations, (i) In practice man has to move out of the dilemmas 1 and 2 at least some of the time. This is inevitable, as man is compelled to take part in reality. (ii) When we observe man as he is, we find he disagrees very profoundly about basic matters in principle in regard to religious and moral areas, so much so, that upon an empirical basis one cannot come up with any moral or religious view that has universal validity.