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

Seven Things You Can’t Do as a Moral Relativist

Greg KouklSo you’ve decided to become a moral relativist. Good for you! What could be better than doing whatever feels right? What could be worse than letting someone tell you what you should and shouldn’t do? Plus, it’s one of the easiest worldviews to adopt: Just leave everyone else alone and demand that they do the same for you, and you’ll never have to worry again about whether your actions are right or wrong. In fact, there are really only seven things that you can’t do as a moral relativist. Simply follow the rules below, and you’ll be free from absolutes forever!

Rule #1: RELATIVISTS CAN’T ACCUSE OTHERS OF WRONG-DOING

Relativism makes it impossible to criticize the behavior of others, because relativism ultimately denies that there is such a thing as wrong- doing. In other words, if you believe that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you can’t ever again judge the actions of others. Relativists can’t even object on moral grounds to racism. After all, what sense can be made of the judgment “apartheid is wrong” when spoken by someone who doesn’t believe in right and wrong? What justification is there to intervene? Certainly not human rights, for there are no such things as rights. Relativism is the ultimate pro-choice position because it accepts every personal choice—even the choice to be racist.

Rule #2: RELATIVISTS CAN’T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The reality of evil in the world is one of the primary objections raised against the existence of God. The argument goes that if God were absolutely powerful and ultimately good, then he would take care of evil. But since evil exists, one of three possible scenarios has to be true: God is too weak to oppose evil, God is too sinister to care about evil, or God simply doesn’t exist. Of course, to advance any one of these arguments means that you also have to believe in evil, which relativists can’t do. In fact, nothing can be called evil—not even the Holocaust—because to do so would be to affirm some sort of moral standard.

–Greg Koukl

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