Having established that “truth” is not relevant to “good” and “bad” religion, Vardy goes on to discuss the problem of otherwise determining the morality of religious behaviour. In this he cites Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma — is something good because God commands it or does God command that which is good? Religion has traditionally followed divine command theory in ethics: good can be judged as good because God commanded it and he is good. The circularity is obvious and thus Vardy rejects it, noting along the way that this thinking as led to a depressingly long list of religious crimes.
But how can we call them “crimes” unless we have some independent standard of morality? And if we find one, does this, as Bertrand Russell suggested, render God useless? For if he is not the arbiter of good, what is his use?
Nevertheless, some independent standard will be necessary in judging good from bad. And for Vardy, it is Aristotle.
1. I think Mormons would be happy calling God the Agent rather than the source of some eternal good, but that is, in many ways, a radical theology. It’s a shame, then, that Vardy is unaware of it. After all, by believing in an anthropomorphic God, Mormons show that they are not “serious believer[s]” (p. 5). For their part, Mormons need to do more to explain this extra-divine good.