Bryan, let me try to explain why I think the meta-ethical questions are off-topic here.
It could be that values are strange immaterial things like platonic forms or something, and it could be that we were created by a super intelligent being who gave us a moral sense so that we could come to know these values. This whole story could be true, but the fact remains that the fundamentalist Christian world view is completely out of sync with our moral intuitions about death and killing, as Maitzen has pointed out.
Maitzen’s own reasoning about the supposed logical ramifications of Christian morality are themselves internally inconsistent, as I pointed out up above. Does Christian morality rightly lead to ethical paralysis or a celebration of baby death? It can’t be both.
Our moral intuitions about death and killing seem to presuppose that there is no heaven, and so they fit well with atheism and possibly some forms of Judaism and liberal Christianity, but not with fundamentalist Christianity.
If you want to make it seem that meta-ethical questions are off-topic then you should abandon the approach of saying that some meta-ethical approaches accord better with our moral intuitions.
Consider abortion for a moment. We just went through a thread about how it shouldn’t matter to abortion rights if a fetus feels pain. Do we have any atheists or secularists here who oppose abortion at any time prior to birth? That’s a pretty low bar, by the way. Most Americans (and Europeans, iirc) favor some sort of late-term restriction on abortion. Do you know any fundamentalist Christians who favor abortion at all? Why are Maitzen’s intuitions about how fundamentalist Christians ought to reason (based on their moral foundations) so wildly divorced from the actual case? Why does Maitzen contradict himself?
The key point, which I’ve stressed many times already, is that our moral intuitions are out of sync with the fundamentalist Christian world view, and this remains true whether our moral intuitions are evolutionary adaptations, divine gifts, or cultural products.
Well, if you put it that way, so what?
Why would secularists want to see fetuses killed regardless of pain?
However, I do think that Maitzen is dead wrong when he suggests that morality is only possible on an atheistic world view. I just see this as hyperbole on his part. It’s perfectly possible for a liberal Christian, say, to admit that they have no idea what you have to do do get to heaven or whether heaven even exists, and that ethics should be concerned only with this life and this world. So they basically just agree with the secular person that ethics is this-worldy, and they’re agnostic about the afterlife. It’s only because fundamentalist Christians think they know things about heaven and what you have to do/believe to get there that they end up with all these deeply counter-intuitive ideas about death and killing in this world.
IIRC, Gallup found that a surprisingly high number of Christians (liberal ones?) think morality is subjective. Perhaps that’s the prevailing intuition.
It was Barna, actually:
Your point about relativism is a very important one. It could be that people from different cultures or with different political views differ considerably in their moral intuitions. I’ve heard that people in experimental ethics have discovered that people in the East tend to be more Utilitarian whereas people in the West tend to be more Kantian (and more individualistic) in their ethical reasoning. Despite all the variation, though, I am fairly optimistic that you could get enough common ground on which to build a secular ethics. Something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights might be an example of this.
Severely punishing or killing those who disagree may also work. Some famous secularists have used that one in the past (Stalin, Mao).
Finally, I just want to add that one fundamentalist, William Lane Craig, has recently bitten the bullet here and accepted that Christian ethics is counter-intuitive (putting it kindly). If you listen to his Reasonable Faith podcast, you will hear him defending the genocide commanded by God in the OT on preceisely these grounds.
Apparently, slaughtering children isn’t really bad for the children as they go straight to heaven anyway. It’s only bad for the soldiers who have to do it, since it may damage their souls! This is a perfect example of a guy who actually takes his world view seriously and follows the logic through.
It would be a mistake to think that Craig justifies killing children generally based on their going to heaven.
Minus a reasonable meta-ethical foundation for morality, the approach to argument Maitzen uses amounts to argumentum ad populum.