If You Believe in a Moral Right and Wrong, You Should Believe in God.

Do you remember where you were on 9/11?  I remember when I turned the TV on and saw the second plane hitting the World Trade Center tower.  At first, I thought it had to be some sort of movie preview and I remember the confusion I felt as it dawned on me that it was real.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who was shocked by that terrible attack.  Whether a national tragedy or personal heartache, these sorts of events remind us that there is real evil in the world.  There is such a thing as “right” and “wrong.”  In this post, I will show that if you believe that there is a real objective right and wrong, you should also think that God is real.

Why can’t a godless universe be moral?

Norman Geisler says, “A moral law is a prescription, and prescriptions come only from prescribers. [Unlike nature’s laws] (which are only descriptive), moral laws are prescriptive: Moral laws don’t describe what is; they prescribe what ought to be.” [1] When we think about gravity, we never consider if an object will choose to disobey it.  Objects fall as they always do. Gravity doesn’t describe how objects ought to fall; it describes how they do fall.  If an object were to fall differently than you expect, you wouldn’t say the object was wrong; you would think your gravity formula was wrong.

When it comes to morality, we find something else.  We see a description of how things ought to be, even if they aren’t.  People ought to love each other, even though they don’t.  If men hate rather than love, we don’t say that we’ve gotten the moral law wrong but that those men are wrong.  Where do these obligations come from?  Only something with vision can describe what doesn’t exist but should, and only persons have vision.

If we imagine a world without God, we can see some other reasons why it would be empty of morality.  Such a world would have no purpose, no free will, and no moral accountability.  Without these, there can be no real meaning to “right” and “wrong.”

Purpose

Without God, humanity just happened to come about by a mindless unguided process of evolution.  There was no particular purpose to our existence; we happen to exist. In other words, there is nothing that humanity is aimed at, no way that people ought to be.  We were not made to be moral any more than to be immoral.  We were not made at all, so there is no ideal model we are meant to live up to.  Since humanity’s existence is not aiming at anything, we can never miss the mark.  There is no mark we ought to hit.

Free Will

It is also hard to see why there should be any free will if God does not exist.  In that case, our mind is just our brain’s product.  However, the laws of physics and chemistry determine the chemical state of one’s brain.  In this case, the laws of physics and chemistry also determine our minds. You don’t choose your thoughts; they happen automatically according to physical laws. Therefore there is no real meaning to say that someone has chosen “wrong.” They could not have done otherwise. Since we only ever select what we’re destined to select by our brain chemistry, there are no real choices at all, right or wrong.

Moral Accountability

Finally, we can see that there is no moral accountability if God does not exist.  When we die, we cease to be. There is no future reward or punishment for how we’ve lived our lives.  We could have been as good as Billy Graham or as evil as Adolf Hitler, and in the end, we all go to the same place.  In the end, it makes no difference how we’ve lived.

Since there is no purpose, no free will, and no moral accountability, there can be no meaningful objective moral values or duties.  William Lane Craig puts it best when he says, “[Men and women are] just accidental byproducts of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time.”[2]  If God does not exist, life is ultimately absurd; how it’s lived makes no difference.

So why believe that morality is real?

The reality is that we experience morality all the time.  We have this inescapable sense that certain things are right or wrong.  We don’t just dislike rape and murder; we think that others ought not to commit such crimes.  When we have the sense that other people ought to do right, we sense an objective law that applies to all people.

Think about your favorite pizza topping.  You have no belief that others ought to like your favorite topping, or that they are doing something wrong if they don’t.  Our experience of pizza toppings is subjective; it seems like it only applies to ourselves.  We have the opposite experience with morality; it appears to us that all people ought to do right.  Our sense of morality can’t be quantified or measured; it is just experienced firsthand.  As Craig puts it, “I take it that in moral experience we do apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties, just as in sensory experience we apprehend a realm of objectively existing physical objects.” [3]

So, we should believe in objective moral values and duties because we experience them firsthand. As Paul Copan puts it, “It seems that we should reasonably believe what is apparent or obvious to us unless there are overriding reasons to dismiss it.” [4]

Therefore, God exists.

Let’s summarize:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

We saw that premise one is true because there is no purpose, no free will, and no moral accountability without God.  Without these things, there can be no real objective meaning to morality.  It seems we have good reason to believe in premise two as well because of our firsthand experience.  It just follows from this that God exists.

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[1] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology in One Volume (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishing, 2011), pg 29.

[2] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), pg 172.

[3] ibid, pg 179.

[4] Paul Copan, The Moral Argument in Philosophy of Religion: Classical and Contemporary Issues edited by Paul Copan and Chad Meister (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008), pg 129.


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