“You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.”
I love this photo. Besides the double pun about being good for goodness sake, I think that it represents a prevalent view among secular humanists or atheists. The part that really struck me was their stance: “Humanism is the idea that you can be good without belief in God.” Now I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with this. Obviously you do not need belief in God to live a moral life. There are countless examples of unbelievers living far better and moral lives than most religious people. Scripture describes how the moral law is written on the hearts of all men and they naturally follow the law (Romans 2:14-15). In essence, an non-theist could follow the rules of morality and still disagree, however mistakenly, on the metaphysical basis of those rules. However, that is not necessarily the issue with morality and religion. Rather the question needs to be phrased, “can we be good without God?” In other words, if God does not exist, then are objective moral values and duties binding or are objective? I argue that if God exists, then objective moral values, moral accountability and moral duties are secured. However, if God does not exist, morality is a human creation, its non-binding, and wholly subjective. Here outlined is the moral argument for the existence of God:
(1.) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
(2.) Objective moral values and duties do exist.
(3).Therefore, God exists.
This is one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. The premises of the argument (or the points) are formed in what is called a deductive argument. In other words, if the first two premises are true, then the conclusion follows necessarily and inescapably.
In order to avoid confusion, it is imperative to state the differences between objective and subjective. An example of objective truth is there is five dollars in my wallet, it is independently true and is not based on opinion. In contrast, subjective truth is based off of opinion. An example of a subjective truth is the appearance of my wallet is fashionable or looks cool. To sum it up, objective morality states that moral values are independent of opinion. They are objectively true regardless of the culture, history, geography or time.
Furthermore, my argument does not assert belief in God is required to live a moral life. On the contrary, secular naturalists or atheists can potentially, live better moral lives than Christians. I am not asking if we can be good with God–my question is can we be good without God? I am exploring the ontological basis for morality and not epistemology of we come to know morality. Moral ontology questions the reality of moral values while in contrast, moral epistemology questions how we come to know morality.
Moral epistemology objections are thus red herrings and they need not distract us from the main issue. As the atheist Paul Kurtz states, “The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral?”
Premise 1: if God Does not Exist, Then Objective Moral Values and Duties do not Exist.
If God does not exist, there is no justification or accountability for objective moral values. That is to say without God, there would be no foundation outside of relativism. What relativism asserts is that morality is wholly-subjective and all moral values and duties have equal value. There would be no objective grounding or anchoring of moral values since there would be no transcendent source. William Lane Craig writes “If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything?” In essence, there would be nothing to impose morality upon us on a naturalistic world-view. This would leave one with nihilism which asserts that right or wrong does not exist. Michael Ruse is a scientist and discusses what morality looks like on an evolutionary world-view:
The position of the modern evolutionist… is that humans have an awareness of morality…because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth… Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love they neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves… Nevertheless,… such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,… and any deeper meaning is illusory.
According to Ruse, under a naturalist world-view, morality has no objective meaning or truth. This is echoed by ethicist Richard Taylor who states that without God. “[ethicists] are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning. Taylor invites us to imagine the consequences of such a world-view. He writes:
Such actions, though injurious to their victims, are no more unjust or immoral than they would be if done by one animal to another. A hawk that seizes a fish from the sea kills it, but does not murder it; and another hawk that seizes the fish from the talons of the first takes it, but does not steal it—for none of these things is forbidden. And exactly the same considerations apply to the people we are imagining. Under naturalism, morality becomes completely relative or subjective, no right or wrongs, nor is there any absolute good or evil.
Richard Dawkins has said that, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” The consequence of of God not existing is that human beings lives are worthless and there is nothing objectively special about us. In essence, humans are nothing more than freaks of nature that came into existence by pure chance. We are without any objective purpose. We are nothing more than blobs of matter, with our only purpose in life is to reproduce and to survive, all the while, being cast on the speck of dust called Earth, lost in the dismal, cold, dark abyss of the universe.
A grave implication of moral relativism is that our moral behavior is deduced to being no better or worse than animals. The soldier who falls upon a grenade to save his comrades is no more praise worthy than an ant dying for its queen. Mother Teresa’s deeds are no more praise worthy than the atrocities that the Nazi’s committed during World War II. It makes no difference how one lives. If human beings are nothing more than primates, what makes us think we are no better than any other animal? To think that humans have objective moral worth is committing the bias of specism. Inevitably, if naturalism is true, then a consequence it becomes impossible for one to condemn war, oppression, or any ‘immoral’ acts. Likewise, one cannot praise one for being loving, advocate for equality, praise one for being charitable, or seek after justice. Ruse grimly states in his book Darwin Defended, that “the man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5.” They do have have any intrinsic moral value at all.
As Richard Wurmbrand reported, Soviet prison guards and interrogators understood this all too well:
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.
With the finality of death, it is irrelevant if one were to live like Mother Teresa or Hitler. As a result of natural selection and naturalism, one can live purely out of self-interest and live without any moral obligations. Kai Nielson describes that grimness of the implications of secular naturalism. He writes that “The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me… Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” It is fair to say that without God, there is good reasons to think that objective morality does not exists. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky best put it, “If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.”
So there are good reasons to think that if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties are not binding. All we are left with is nihilism which ultimately leads to all of morality illusory at best. Julian Baggini rightly points out”If there is no single moral authority [i.e. no God] we have to in some sense ‘create’ values for ourselves … [and] that means that moral claims are not true or false? you may disagree with me but you cannot say I have made a factual error.”
Premise (2) Objective Moral Values and Duties do Exist.
I believe that there are good reasons to think this. Things like brotherhood, equality, justice, kindness, and tolerance are objectively good, where as, malevolence and cruelty are objectively bad. For example, things like school shootings and murder children is morally wrong. Another example is the Holocaust was genuinely evil– even if the Nazi’s won World War II and successfully brainwashed everyone. The act itself would still be seen as evil if it were discovered. These are not matter of opinions, but rather, they are moral abominations. Those who deny objective moral values are simply morally handicap, in the sense they are like the blind man who cannot see the color brown. Though the blind man cannot see the color brown, nonetheless, the color brown is still there. In every case, objective moral values and duties are adhered by different civilizations, regardless of their geographic location or time period (i.e. the Greeks, Babylonians, Native American, Indian, and Hebrew, etc.). C.S. Lewis cites that within these diverse societies and civilizations, stealing and murder are condemned within their law codes while honoring parents and keeping marriage vows are applauded.Objective morality is not created but in essence, is found. Kai Nielson again, acknowledges this point:
It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [wife-beating, child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil… I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.
Even the champion of the New Atheist movement, Richard Dawkins, seemingly accepts both (1) and (2) of the moral argument, all the while, being oblivious to these implications. As cited before, Dawkins informs us (in River out of Eden), that “…there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference…We are machines for propagating DNA… It is every living object’s sole reason for being.” However, Dawkins is a adherent moralist. For example, in his book God Delusion, he stated that he was “mortified” when he discovered that Enron’s executive, Jeff Skilling, loved Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene because it promoted social Darwinism. Likewise, Dawkins praises charity, compassion, and generosity as “noble emotions.” Not only that, but he describes the doctrine of original sin as “morally obnoxious.” Furthermore, he created his own revised Ten Commandments as a better standard of morality! Dawkins seems completely unaware of this contradiction. He is like the man who saws off the tree branch where he is seated on, he completely undermines his own moral relativism by making moral statements and judgements of what is objectively right or wrong.
This illustrates that even one who commits to moral relativism, is unable to honestly live out their world-view. If one where to accept (1) and (2) then the conclusion would follow deductively that God exits.
Premise (3): Therefore, God exist.
I think that given if the two premises of the moral argument are true, then it follows deductively and inescapably that God exists. Morality comes from something that transcends our genes. Transcendent, that is to say, religious. Something that cannot be scientifically proved, but is there nonetheless. We can – and often we do – go against what our genes dictate, for a reason that cannot be explained or justified in atheistic, materialistic terms, and which makes us moral beings.
It makes sense on a theistic-view because objective moral values are rooted in a holy, perfect, all-just, and all-loving God. Our choices are paramount and have eternal significance because we are held accountable by God. To sum it up, secular naturalist and agnostic Paul Draper admits that, “A moral world is very probable on theism.”
God in essence in the world-view of classical theism, the Summum Bonum or the highest good. God’s moral nature is expressed is reflected of His divine commands which constitute our moral duties or obligations. The whole moral duty in Christian traditions can be beautifully summed up in Matthew 22:37-39, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Upon this principle, we can affirm that love, generosity, self-sacrifice, and equality are objectively good and condemn things that are objectively evil such as selfishness, hatred, abuse, discrimination, intolerance, and oppression.
Finally, God holds individuals morally accountable for their actions; the evil and wrong are punished and the good are vindicated. Thus, the moral choices we make in this life have eternal significance. This would lead one in a terrible dilemma. As I argued before, if the universe is not govern by God, then all our efforts to be good are meaningless. Morality is relative and it would not matter if one lived their life as Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler. On the other hand, if the universe is govern by a God who is perfectly good, then it must hate everything that I do. Sure we love the golden rule, “do unto others as you would to yourself.” Everyone agrees with that rule and that it’s a good thing. But who’s really keeping it?
We fall short of that standard of goodness all the time. It is not until we come to this realization that Christianity begins to speak to us. We are need of a savior.
We are all deserving of condemnation and death, but instead, God sought that all shall be saved and that none shall perish. God went to such extreme lengths that He sent His one and only Son to live and die so that we could have a clean slate. In spite of being worthy of only condemnation, Jesus bore all the wrath meant for us and took our place on the cross. While we were sinners and Jesus was sinless, He still willingly died for us. In a beautiful exchange, Christ traded places with us. Moreover, Jesus has assured us that slate has been wiped cleaned by being risen from the dead.