How Do We Explain Morality?

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If there is no God, then there can be no objective standards of right and wrong. All we are confronted with is, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, the bare, valueless fact of existence. Moral values are either just expressions of personal taste or the by-products of socio-biological evolution and conditioning. In a world without God, who is to say which values are right and which are wrong? Who is to judge that the values of Adolf Hitler are inferior to those of a saint? The concept of morality loses all meaning in a universe without God.

As one contemporary atheistic ethicist points out, “to say that something is wrong because . . . it is forbidden by God, is . . . perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong . . . even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable. . . .” “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” (Richard Taylor)

In a world without God, there can be no objective right and wrong, only our culturally and personally relative, subjective judgments. This means that it is impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can one praise brotherhood, equality, and love as good. For in a universe without God, good and evil do not exist—there is only the bare valueless fact of existence, and there is no one to say you are right and I am wrong.

–William Lane Craig,
The Absurdity of Life without God

When “wrong” loses its meaning

richard taylor2“…to say that something is wrong because . . . it is forbidden by God, is . . . perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong . . . even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable. . . .”

“The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.”

–Richard Taylor, Ethicist
Ethics, Faith, and Reason

We still employ dectectives

J. Warner WallaceIf we, as humans, are only physical systems (merely matter), we ought to stop trying to hold each other accountable for misbehavior. In fact, there can be no misbehavior if we are only physical brains and bodies; there can only be behavior. Our actions have no moral content at all unless we truly have the freedom to choose and the ability to break the bondage of physical event causation. As a homicide detective, I can’t prosecute the gun or knife that was used by the murderer, but I can certainly arrest the free-agent human that used the physical tool to commit the murder in the first place. I can’t do this if the human was only another purely physical object in a sequence of caused events. If materialism (physicalism) is true, there is no need for homicide detectives. We still employ detectives, however, because our sense of moral obligation proves materialism to be false.

–J. Warner Wallace