Should our moral values depend on religion? This question of whether morality is dependent or independent of religion is a major topic in philosophy of religion. Louis P. Pojman illustrated this point in a Socratic passage from the Euthyphro, “Does God love goodness because it is good, or is it good because God loves it?” (Pojman 154). The individuals, who claim that moral values are created, dependent, and controlled by God, believe in the Divine Command Theory. On the other hand, atheistic existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, believe that our moral values are independent of God, which leaves morality a value that humans create.
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As a result, man experiences forlornness. This misery comes from the fact that humans become fully responsible of their morality and that everything is now morally possible since there is no God to prohibit humans from doing so.
Dostoevsky elegantly elaborated Sartre’s point, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible” (Peterson 624). According to Sartre, once we realize this point, existentialism becomes a substitute for God in terms of moral values and the origin of their principles. Strictly speaking, in a world without god, as the existentialists put it, human beings become judges and executioners of morality. This stresses a large responsibility into the hands of every human being. Sartre believed that this is extremely painful to human beings, and thus forlornness is inevitable.
Forlornness is not the only feeling that the atheistic existentialist feels. They also experience, along with individuals who accept a world without an existing supreme deity, feeling s of anguish and despair. According to Sartre, anguish is the feeling that “the man who involves himself and who realizes that he’s not only the person he chooses to be, but also a law-maker who is, at the same time, choosing all mankind as well as himself, cannot help escape the feeling of his total and deep responsibility” (Peterson 623). In the world of a moral atheist, it follows that stress, suffering, and pain are inevitable because we cannot escape this extreme responsibility laid upon us. God is no longer aiding us, nor providing someone to go to or to blame, and thus the extremely responsibility laid upon us makes us unhappy to varying degrees.
Sartre also emphasized the feeling of despair that we get as a result of controlling our own moral values. He asserted that despair meant that we “confine ourselves to reckoning only with what depends upon our will, or on the ensemble of probabilities which make our action possible. When we want something, we always have to reckon with probabilities” (Peterson 626). Consequently, it appears that our lives may appear to some extent a life of pessimistic hopelessness. However, Sartre does not appear so much pessimistic, but realistic. It appears as if atheistic existentialism tries to make the best out of an unpleasant situation, namely a godless world.
The skeptic will assume that from this we can conclude that human beings are free to do everything and anything they want. However, Sartre denied this claim of atheistic existentialism being arbitrary. He defended his view by offering an analogy to art, he wants us to see that “moral choice is to be compared to the making of a work of art” (Peterson 627). According to Sartre, works of art are never claimed to be subjective or arbitrary. Art is “judged only after it has once been made” (Peterson 627). Thus, according to Sartre, human beings are being creative artists, in the sense that we are creating this wonderful work of art, known as morality. ...