James Rachels ‘God and Human Attitudes’ in Paul Helm (ed) Divine Commands and Morality (OUP, ’81) offered the following argument for the incompatibility of there existing both a being that is worthy of worship and autonomous moral agents.
1. Necessarily, if God exists then He is worthy of worship.
2. It is impossible that some being is worthy of worship.
3. Therefore, it is impossible that God exists.
Phil Quinn, ‘Religious Obedience and Moral Autonomy’ (also in P. Helm) submits his doubts about premise (2) and (more or less) plausibly reconstructs Rachels’ argument for (2) in this way.
4. It is impossible that some being is worthy of worship and there are some moral agents.
5. Necessarily there are some moral agents.
2. Therefore, it is impossible that some being is worthy of worship.
In defense of (4) Rachels commits himself to a Kantian or neo-Kantian conception of moral agency. He says, for instance,
“to be a moral agent is to be an autonomous or self-directed agent . . . The virtuous man is therefore identified with the man of integrity, that is the man who acts according to precepts which he can, on reflection, conscientiously approve in his own heart” (43).
If (4) is true then a genuinely self-directed moral agent could not co-exist with a being that is worthy of worship. More on this puzzling premise in a moment.
In his Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), Philip Quinn terms the claim:
If God did not exist, then everything would be permitted.
‘Karamazov’s Thesis’ (KT). Are divine command theorists committed to KT? And are divine command theorists then committed to saying that if God did not exist, stealing this diamond ring would be permitted?