This evening Andy Bannister posted another strikingly bold assertion about the connection between theism and value:
On a first pass, this tweet appears to me to be obviously false. For two statements to be contradictory, one must make an assertion that is directly inconsistent with the other such that they could not simultaneously be true. For example, “There is a God” and “There is no God” are contradictory statements. And so are “Human beings have intrinsic value” and “Human beings have no intrinsic value”. But what contradiction is there between “There is no God” and “Human beings have intrinsic value”? I can see none.
Perhaps Andy is speaking loosely and really means to say that atheism cannot provide a coherent account of intrinsic value. That would certainly help his tweet’s fortunes, for a time at least. Regardless, we’d still need to ask, what reason is there to believe that it is not possible for human beings to have intrinsic value if God doesn’t exist?
I’m sorry to say, but even on this more modest point I don’t think Andy has a good case. Imagine, for example, that an atheist adopts a metaphysic according to which there are some metaphysical transcendentals like goodness, truth, and beauty which exist of necessity. And all creatures that have the capacity to exemplify those transcendentals have intrinsic value precisely in virtue of being the kind of beings that can exemplify goodness, truth, and beauty. In that case, if one believed that human beings have the capacity to exemplify those attributes, it would follow that human beings have intrinsic value.
That seems to me to be a perfectly possible metaphysic. (Whether it is plausible is a question that each individual must answer for themselves.) And given that it is perfectly possible, it is manifestly clear that there is no contradiction even in this weaker, colloquial sense.