As you probably know, I dabble in apologetics. This is a past-time derived from my personal struggle through agnosticism. Digression: People like me are the reason that the Church cannot abandon its God-given apologetic duties. Apologetics that are ultimately Gospel-centered are an ordained means by which God draws men to Himself. Why would you abandon something in which so much power resides?
Back on track, I’d like to briefly explore some of the implications of the Moral Argument. I’ll start by covering the argument itself:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Objective moral values and duties do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
Atheists aren’t good people.
Some who misunderstand the Moral Argument take it to say that all atheists are evil, therefore God exists, or that all atheists must be bad people. This would be a silly thing to say, however: We know that there are atheists who do things that we consider good. The converse idea — namely, that theists couldn’t then be bad people — is also blatantly false. There are plenty who serve the false god named Self (all the while defaming the title of “Christian”) who are terribly insufferable at best. So right on the face of it, this objection seems valid. It’s a truthful statement: Atheists can be good people. But this objection misses the point: The Moral Argument doesn’t conclude that atheists can’t be good people. The Moral Argument implies that the only way it will make sense to talk of “Good” is if God exists. You have no basis, or grounding, for what you call “Good” if not in the transcendent nature of God.
Some atheists simply shrug off the implications of the Moral Argument by denying the objectivity of morality. Morality evolved, they say. We just keep getting better. Such language, however, again misses the point. This objection presupposes a standard by which to judge the morality of a society over time. In other words, to say morality has improved presupposes that it improved as compared to…something. In the atheistic worldview it is incoherent to say that morality got better or got worse; morality simply is. (By the way, this knocks quite a bit of the wind out of any “moral monster” argument you might want to make toward God.)
Objective moral values don’t need God.
This is the most tenuous objection to the Moral argument. It’s the denial of premise 1: That moral values can be objective without God. This can often drive some form of the Euthyphro dilemma. But the problem here is that any theory in which moral truth is a byproduct of the natural world necessarily defines morality in subjective terms, and thus denies the objectivity of morality. For instance, a popular argument is that because moral values are valuable to survival, then they are truly objective without God. However this simply redefines an ethical right and wrong as a societal adaptation, which means that moral value is dependent on, and thus subjective to, societies. And so this is again a denial of objective moral values in any meaningful sense of the phrase.
The real weight of the moral argument is that it tosses atheism on the horns of a dilemma: Either reject objective moral values, or accept God. Most go the way of rejecting objective moral truth in theory, but in practice this fails. Atheists still talk as if objective moral values exist, choosing to deny them by lip-service only. And that’s why you can be good without believing in God: Because objective moral values do exist, and can be apprehended by each of us. We can tell what is right and wrong, and what good and bad are. And because objective moral values exist, we know that God exists — whether you believe in Him or not.