If there is no God, there is no morality either. Only a transcendent, personal being like God can serve as the ontological foundation for transcendent moral truths and moral duties. Cultural norms and mores may still exist without God, but not moral truths. Without God to provide the ontological grounding for objective moral values, what we refer to as “morality” is nothing more than expressions of our subjective preferences or human pragmatism. To say “murder is wrong” is no different than saying “chocolate ice-cream is gross” or “you shouldn’t drive on the left side of the road.” Moral obligations fall by the wayside, for in the name of what ought anybody submit to cultural preferences or pragmatic mores?
To believe morals exist but God does not is like believing books exist but authors do not. There wouldn’t be any books in the absence of authors, and there wouldn’t be any moral truths in the absence of a transcendent, personal, holy God to ground those moral truths in reality. Put another way, to believe moral truths exist in the absence of a transcendent source like God is like believing books exist in the absence of authors. And to believe that we are obligated to behave in certain ways in the absence of a moral law maker and judge is tantamount to thinking one is obligated to obey the laws in a nation without legislators.
Only the existence of God can make sense of the existence of morality. If you want to deny the existence of God, then you must also deny the existence of moral truths. Relativism is all you are left with. And if that’s where you want to go, so be it, but please don’t complain about the problem of evil, rail on Christians about the Crusades, or claim we are wrong in our moral positions. The emperor has no clothes.
- Can morality be grounded outside of God?
- The typical atheist’s response to the moral argument for God’s existence
- I can be good without God
- Since you would be good even if God didn’t exist, then God isn’t necessary for morality
- Would you be good if God didn’t exist?
- Morality and the Epistemology-Ontology Distinction
*Invariably someone will respond to my argument by saying you don’t have to believe in God to know what is right or to live morally. I agree, but this is a red herring. My argument is not that one must believe in God in order to know and practice morality (an issue of moral epistemology). Rather, my argument is that if God does not exist, there are no moral truths to know in the first place, and there is no behavior that can be described as objectively moral (an issue of moral ontology). Belief in God is not necessary for moral knowledge/behavior, but the existence of God is. If God did not exist, there would be no moral truths for the atheist to know and practice. To argue that since one can be moral without belief in God, God is not necessary to explain morality is like arguing that since one can read books without believing in the existence of authors, authors are not necessary to explain the existence of books. It’s a confusion of moral epistemology with moral ontology. In the same way there would be no books to read if authors did not exist, there would be no moral truths to know/practice if God did not exist.