It has long been my opinion that moral realists (aka theists) are confused about the difference between fact and opinion. That's not surprising, because theists in general are confused about the difference between objective reality and fantasy. They speak of God's existence as if it were an objective fact, like the existence of the table in front of me right now. One might argue that it is only my perception of the table that makes me believe it exists, but that's not true. I know the table exists as an objective fact because it impacts not only my perception, but it can be detected and measured by physical devices and instruments, as well as being seen and felt by other people. Nobody says you have to believe first, and then you can see it. It's there, and I can photograph it and weigh it. Everyone can see it, regardless of whether they have a certain kind of mindset, or framework of beliefs. That's the essence of objective reality.
Opinion, on the other hand, is not objective fact. An opinion has no existence apart form the mind of the person who holds it. People have differing views about something. Their views are based on beliefs, values, preferences, and judgments they make. The concept of beauty is a perfect example of this. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. What one person finds to be attractive may be seen as ugly by someone else. This is something that most of us understand. My opinion that something is beautiful is not an objective fact. It is a value judgment. Some may agree with me, and others disagree, but nobody can say that their own opinion is objectively true, like the existence of a table. To do so is a kind of arrogance. It places one's own opinion above that of others, and denies that other opinions have merit or validity.
To continue with the example of beauty, we can see that a judgment about the beauty of something is a matter of opinion rather than fact, because we understand that people don't all share the same aesthetic values and make the same judgments. At the same time, there are some things that most people would agree are beautiful, and some things that most people think are ugly. The vast majority of things fall somewhere in between, and the level of agreement among people isn't so high. If you choose some arbitrary object and ask people to rate its aesthetic attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10, there will usually be no widespread agreement on what that rating should be. However, there might be some relatively small subset of objects that most people do agree on, especiacally at one end of the scale or the other. There are things at the extremes that most people share the similar opinions about - an exceptionally beautiful bird, for example. And even though most people agree that it is beautiful, that doesn't change the fact that this is still an opinion. It just happens to be an opinion that is widely shared. It would be wrong to state that this judgment of beauty is an objective fact, simply because most people make the same judgment.
To understand this better, consider something that is not quite at the far end of the scale. Should its beauty be considered an objective fact? For things in the middle, it is clearly a matter of preference and judgment. As we approach the extreme ends of the scale, there is more and more agreement about the beauty of something. But there is no magical point on the scale where opinion suddenly becomes objective fact. Even if everybody agrees in their judgment, it is still a matter of opinion. There is no absolute standard of beauty.
The same could be said of moral judgments. Most moral judgments are subject to widespread disagreement. It would be absurd to call them objective facts. And yet, Christians believe that they are God's judgment, not their own. And as such, moral judgments must be objectively true (because God says so). Nevermind the fact that God seems to express different moral judgments to different people. Not everybody shares the same moral judgment about any given situation, but you would be hard-pressed to find a single Christian who thinks his own moral judgments differ from those of God. This is the absurdity of "absolute moral values". The only standard of morality that exists is the one that each of us has in our own mind. And if we think that standard comes from God, we should be prepared to explain why it isn't the same for everybody.
If you ask a Christian to name an objective moral value, you will typically get a response something like the one that Victor Reppert gave recently:
Here you go. "It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement." - ReppertDo you see what he has done? He chooses an example from the extreme end of the scale - one that virtually everybody agrees about - and that becomes his basis for declaring that moral judgments in general are objective facts. It's like finding a rare bird that everybody agrees is beautiful, and then claiming on that basis that judgments about beauty are objective facts. Many theists are willing to concede that value judgments about aesthetics are matters of opinion rather than objective fact. But for some reason, they refuse to concede that value judgments about ethics are opinions in a similar manner.
It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that there are objective moral truths. Even atheist Hugo Pelland does this here. Perhaps the reason is that moral instincts are so strongly embedded in the human psyche. But there is a significant difference between these two propositions:
a) It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement.The first is dependent on who the actor is and his reasons for doing it, while the second is independent of any mind or any actor. If we say (as many Christians do) that God is not a moral actor or that God has no moral responsibilities to humankind, for example, then it is not wrong for God to do anything, including inflicting pain on little children. Indeed, this is the basis of many Christian theodicies that explain evil in the world created by God. For God, causing pain and suffering is not considered to be an evil act. Alternatively, it may be regarded as the better of two options. In other words, such an act is deemed as necessary in order to bring about a greater good, and therefore, it's not morally wrong. (God is a moral relativist.) Therefore, for a Christian to state that this is an absolute moral truth is incoherent in light of his own theodicy. The logical truth of 2 + 2 = 4, on the other hand is logically indisputable (regardless of one's inability to provide a formal proof of it). It would still be an objectively true proposition even if there was no person or no mind to argue the case.
b) 2 + 2 = 4.
This highlights the difference between something that is an objective fact and something that isn't. If there are no people, then there are no moral propositions, and no moral truths. Animals are not moral actors because they don't comprehend right and wrong the way people do. People are moral actors precisely because of the way we think about our actions and their consequences. Furthermore, we don't all think the same. We make different decisions about what is right and wrong, and yet we can have perfectly valid logical reasons for making those decisions. That implies that absolute moral facts do not exist.