Why Think There Is a God? (3): Why Is It Wrong?

Morality Breach

Morality Breach (Photo credit: Rickydavid)

Making moral decisions is not always easy. Sometimes we get pulled in different directions; maybe our heart says one thing and our head another. But some things are crystal clear – some things are just plain wrong. The murder of an innocent person is wrong. The abuse of a child is wrong. Rape – regardless of the gender or the circumstance – is wrong. But where does this moral conviction come from? Why is it that we think that morality is important? Why is it we spend so much time worrying about whether something is right or wrong?

Atheism does not provide very satisfying answers to these questions. Some atheists say that human morality is just a happy coincidence – we could have developed differently, but luckily we happen to think that murder and rape are wrong. But this isn’t very encouraging, if our sense of right and wrong is just chance. Nor does it seem to reflect our experience of moral decisions – morality isn’t just a trick of our brains, some things are obviously bad.

Some atheists say that human morality developed as a survival strategy – a society without lots of murders will work better than a society with lots of murders so evolution should select for the society without lots of murders. Whilst that’s true, it is also true that it is even better for the survival of my genes for me to feign morality when it suits me and to behave immorally when it suits me better. We would expect evolution to equip us with a survival instinct but we would not expect evolution to equip us with values of self-sacrifice, compassion and altruism. And yet, we just do think that self-sacrifice is morally good and that murder, regardless of the selfish motives, is bad.

Some atheists say that morality is a consequence of our rational faculties, that when evolved rational minds we realised that murder or rape was wrong. But morality is something different from reason. Reason is great working out how to get what you want but it cannot tell you what it is you desire. If I want to be successful and powerful then it is perfectly rational for me to commit immoral acts to further my career (if I can get away with them). Reason can help us make our moral decisions but only once we have some moral values to work with.

In contrast theism has a very straightforward explanation for why we think morality is important – God has given us this moral capacity for our benefit. God is good and God wants humans to be able to form relationships with him, so has given them this moral capacity. Our morality capacity is part of what makes us personal and relational beings.

This is not to say that atheists can’t do good things (they can). All human beings have this moral capacity and can choose to act upon it or not. The question is where does that moral capacity come from? Why do we think that morality matters? If morality is real, if some things are just plain wrong, then we cannot explain the universe in purely physical terms. Our tendency to think in moral terms indicates that there is moral being behind the universe – and that is God.

New Morality

New Morality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Preceding articles:

Why think there’s a God? (1): Something from Nothing

Why think there is a God? (2) Goldilocks Effect

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Find also to read:

  1. A philosophical error which rejects the body as part of the human person
  2. Morality, values and Developing right choices
  3. Are religious and secular ethicists climbing the same mountain
  4. Book of books and great masterpiece
  5. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  6. Judeo-Christian values and liberty
  7. Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #4 Mozaic and Noachide laws
  8. Do we have to be an anarchist to react
  9. A risk taking society
  10. If we, in our prosperity, neglect religious instruction and authority
  11. Satan the evil within

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Also of interest:

  1. An Introduction to Logic
  2. Life Amidst Moral Chaos
  3. A Friendly Discussion (Morals, Ethics, and Theism)
  4. Ethics
  5. The ethics of admitting you messed up.
  6. Teaching Ethics to Greedy Bastards
  7. About My Humanist’s Perspective
  8. Are We Climbing the Same Mountain? Secular-Religious Ethical Disagreement and the Peter Singer & Charles Camosy Discussion
  9. Ethics and Answers: Leave pirating to the high seas, not your cable box
  10. Louis P. Pojman – Ethical Relativism
  11. Question Time: Absolute Morality?
  12. Morality: Objective vs Relative
  13. Objective Morality
  14. The foundations of morality
  15. Morality and Conscience: Chapter 14 Prayer Service
  16. Art and Morality
  17. American Thinker: Opinion: Trevor Thomas: Bill Maher, High Priest: Defining Morality in America
  18. Programmed To Be Moral?
  19. Moral values aren’t absolute, but aren’t arbitrary either + Moral values aren’t absolute, but aren’t arbitrary either
  20. This View of Life: Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind
  21. Born that way
  22. Virtue and Evil
  23. Notes on “Breaking Bad”
  24. Welfare politics
  25. Ravaging Politicism (excerpt 3)
  26. Hursthouse Reading
  27. Should Ethicists Be Held to a Higher Moral Standard?
  28. Christian ethics and Peter Singer
  29. Multicultural apocalypse: Stealth jihad has taken root in Europe and is coming to America
  30. Let’s keep America exceptional
  31. Breaking: “American Freedom Law Center”
  32. It’s out with the old as Christian values fall away
  33. “The Fear Of God Is Not In This Place”
  34. Using the Bible Against Christians: Sola Scriptura Atheism
  35. “Spiritual But Not Religious” and the Path to God
  36. There is the Law of love, and then there are the Ten Commandments
  37. Ten commandments to lose the first 4?
  38. The Ten Commandments: Are they still relevant? – Part 4
  39. He who does the commandments and teaches them shall be called great
  40. To what extent should government enforce the moral law of God? The example of divorce.
  41. The Ten Commandments and non-believers
  42. The Ten Commandments and Christian Living
  43. The Catholic Church Changed The Ten Commandments?
  44. Fully Human: Why Think Part I: The Rich Ruler and Jesus
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  47. Torrance on Natural Laws
  48. Barth on God’s Love
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  55. Survival Of The Fittest
  56. Chapter 3 of The Journey – My Invisible Scars
  57. Rust: A Beginners Guide (Part 2)
  58. Unpredictable Life.
  59. Survival of the Richest
  60. It doesn’t really matter What I Do…..
  61. Humble Your Life, Before Life “Face-Plants” You
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  75. Chapter 1, part ii
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  • Do atheists believe that slavery is wrong? Can atheists condemn slavery as immoral? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    For a Christian response to the complaint that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery, see this article and this article for slavery in the Old Testament, and this article for slavery in the New Testament. These are all by Christian philosopher Paul Copan. You can watch a lecture with Paul Copan on the slavery challenge here, and buy a book where he answers the challenge in more detail. There is also a good debate on whether the Bible condones slavery here, featuring David Instone-Brewer and Robert Price. My post is not a formal logical essay on this issue, it is more that I am outraged that atheists, who cannot even rationally ground objective morality, insist on criticizing the morality of the Bible. I think that atheists who are serious about finding the truth about these issues should check out those links, if they are interested in getting to the truth of these matters.
  • Chad Meister: can atheists make sense of morality? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    Atheists often argue that they can make moral claims and live good moral lives without believing in God. Many theists agree, but the real issue is whether atheism can provide a justification for morality. A number of leading atheists currently writing on this issue are opposed to moral relativism, given its obvious and horrific ramifications, and have attempted to provide a justification for a nonrelative morality.
  • An atheist explains the real consequences of adopting an atheistic worldview (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination.
  • The Problem With Atheistic Morality (crawfordgarrett.wordpress.com)
    If God is a mere delusion, I find it impossible to develop any objective moral framework.  I think most atheists and naturalists would agree with me on this statement, but most would say that it doesn’t matter.  When asked about absolute morality, atheist Richard Dawkins claimed “The absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include stoning people for adultery, death for apostasy, punishment for breaking the Sabbath… these are all things that are based on absolute morality.  I don’t think I want an absolute morality.”  First of all, there are several things wrong with this statement.  Number one, he takes into consideration only ancient religious extreme morals.  This just goes to show how incredibly ignorant Dawkins is of Christian moral values.  The second problem with Dawkins’ statement was how he didn’t give any explanation for the moral framework that everyone seems to follow.  Why are we moral creatures?  Why are all of the terrible, awful people such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. not justified in what they did?  Under an atheistic system, I will admit, you can see the evil of a situation for your own personal value, but you cannot in any way, shape, or form claim that the situation is absolutely evil or unjust.  The last part of Dawkins’ statement about not wanting an absolute morality is absurd, considering Dawkins puts so much emphasis on what is absolutely true and what is absolutely not true.  Just because you don’t want something to be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
  • The morality of Atheism (siftingreality.com)
    The debate over morality between Atheists and Theists is forever ongoing. I think Atheists mistakenly believe Theists claim they can’t act in a moral manner, but this isn’t the issue.  Most Atheists, in my experience, are relatively honest, caring people with genuine concern for their fellow man.  However, I have always been puzzled by the Atheist’s claim that a godless, non-transcendent worldview can somehow produce an objective ethical code which supplies moral prescriptions to persons who share different opinions on what is and isn’t moral.

    Inevitably, what the Atheists argues for is some form of relativism, be it individual or cultural.  Either of which have no solid immovable standard.

    Individual relativism, or personal ethics, isn’t really morality.  One’s moral convictions are limited only by the will-power and sensibilities of the individual.  There is nothing binding on the individual to keep his or her own standards.

  • 7 fatal flaws for Relativism (thecatholicdormitory.wordpress.com)
    Relativism makes it impossible to criticize the behavior of others, because relativism ultimately denies such a thing a ‘wrongdoing’. If one believes that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you surrender the possibility of making objective moral judgments about the actions of others, no matter how offensive they are to your intuitive sense of right or wrong. This means that a relativist cannot rationally object to murder, rape, child abuse, racism, sexism or environmental destruction if those actions are consistent with the perpetrator’s personal moral understanding of what is right and good. When right and wrong are a matter of personal choice, we surrender the privilege of making moral judgments about the actions of others. However if we are certain that some things must be wrong and that some judgments against another’s conduct are justified – then relativism is false.
  • The Moral Of The Story (edwardhotspur.wordpress.com)
    One aspect of morality comes from within. Just the simple viewpoint that you don’t wish someone else harm, as long as they haven’t harmed you or someone you know. But sometimes you trick yourself into believing that something someone else has would be better served in your possession. So you just take it. But in time, you’re not 2  years old anymore, and you learn societal morals such as The Prisoner’s Dilemma.
  • How can Atheists be ethical? (angelamaldita.wordpress.com)
    most atheists agree that there is wisdom and morality in the Scripture. How can this be? Well, we, atheists, think that values, including morality, come from people like themselves; the values and morality are the same whether one believes in a god or not. The morality found in scriptures of various religions is remarkably similar, even if the theology is very different. The common thread of morality in these different theologies is the people who wrote them. Atheists, just like any of those people, share the same sense of morality.
  • Did God Make These Babies Moral? (newrepublic.com)
    People can be selfish and amoral and appallingly cruel, but we are also capable of transcendent kindness, of great sacrifice and deep moral insight. Isn’t this evidence for God? This version of “intelligent design” is convincing to many people—including scientists who are otherwise unsympathetic to creationism—and it’s worth taking seriously. Like other intelligent design arguments, it doesn’t work, but its failure is an interesting one, touching on findings about evolution, moral psychology, and the minds of babies and young children.
  • Moral Law (totellthenations.wordpress.com)
    if the law emanated from Someone outside the created order, and indeed, were a reflection of that One, two points become clear. That the Law came from a Supreme and immutable Law-giver and that as such the Law very much is and must be immutable.These are points that must be reflected upon both by the atheist, the agnostic and one who places trust in a Higher Power. If I am not responsible to a Higher Power and this Moral Law stuff is all made up, then murder and torture are indeed no different from acts of kindness and altruism for there is no Immutable Standard. If the Moral Law (however difficult to define) exists, than we humans are held to that standard and are responsible for upholding it.

     

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12 thoughts on “Why Think There Is a God? (3): Why Is It Wrong?

  1. Thanks for the post – love the topic of morals!

    I’m an atheist, and one of the reasons why that is the case is that Christians claim moral high ground while discussing murder & rape.

    I find a huge conflict here. I’ll just pick out 3 examples

    1. Elisha gets called a bald-head, so he curses kids and 42 children get mauled by she bears! The moral?
    2. The flood. Why do all babies, infants & animals need to be murdered by god? Is this moral?
    3. In Numbers, a man is stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Again, is this moral?

    In addition, the bible advocates slavery (and no – it wasn’t just a form of bonded servitude) and making rape victims marry their rapist. These have NEVER been moral actions, yet they are within your bible and condoned by your god.

    Kind regards

    Scott

    Like

    • Scott,

      You seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

      Assuming that the examples you give say exactly what you think they are saying (and let’s not argue the point now), that doesn’t imply atheism. That just implies that those bits of the Bible are immoral and should not be treated as the Word of God.

      So your response doesn’t really let you off the hook. You still need to think about the moral argument.

      Thanks again.

      Tom

      Like

  2. I respectfully disagree

    Sorry, but I’m not claiming atheism is a moral position – it is simply the rejection of a claim that a god or gods exist, specifically due to lack of evidence.

    Let’s discuss the flood. I say that the drowning of babies, infants and children is immoral. Your god claims credit for this action. Do you think this action was moral?

    Kind regards

    Scott

    Like

    • Scott,

      I wasn’t say atheism was immoral. I was simply pointing out that you are considering things out of order.

      Yes, the question of whether the events recorded in the Bible are true and whether they are moral are important questions. But considering those questions comes later on from the question of whether God exists. That’s the point.

      Hope that clarifies things.

      Tom

      Like

      • Sorry – not clear

        You don’t need to beleive in a god to consider whether actions are immoral

        Do you think god drowning babies & infants in a flood is moral?

        Like

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