However, the question is not whether we are capable of doing good deeds without believing in God, but whether we are even able to define what is “good” or what is “moral” without God. Do “good” and “bad” even exist if God doesn’t exist?
PERHAPS THE MORALS BY WHICH WE ABIDE ARE MERELY OUR OWN PERSONAL, SUBJECTIVE VIEWS. JUST LIKE OUR PERSONAL PREFERENCE TOWARD VANILLA ICE CREAM OR CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM. Perhaps morality is merely a human invention which is subject to individual interpretation and nothing more. And if so, how can we rely on such morals? After all, each person has a different opinion regarding what is moral and what is immoral. Or, are there objective values and morals which never change and are not subject to personal views or preferences? If so, what is the basis of these values? If God doesn’t exist, objective and absolute moral values don’t exist. Claiming that objective moral values exist is actually claiming that certain deeds are absolutely bad and other deeds are absolutely good. Meaning, “good” and “bad” are defined independently from the opinions or faith of people.
For example, we cannot claim that the Holocaust was bad or immoral if there is no external moral truth which objectively and absolutely predefines what is “good” and what is “bad” for us. The Nazis believed that killing Jews was a positive action which would lead to a better, more moral world. What if the Nazis were to have won World War II, conquering the entire world, brainwashing everyone and killing whoever disagreed with them, so that the entire world would view things the way they do? Would their “truth” suddenly be right, merely because all of humanity agreed with it?
Or would the murder of millions during the Holocaust still be evil and immoral, regardless of people’s personal opinion? If there is no God who has set forth absolute moral values, there is no objective good or evil.
“Every man does that which is right in his own eyes.” (see Judges 17:6)
OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES DO EXIST. The renowned atheist philosopher John Leslie Mackie of Oxford University admits:
“If there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable… Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.” [J. L. Mackie, philosopher]
However, in order to deny the existence of God, Mackie denied the existence of objective moral values. He writes: “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.” We are not claiming that one cannot lead a moral life without believing in God. As a matter of fact, many atheists and seculars lead far more moral lives than religiously affiliated people. All you need to do is get a newspaper and read about all those rabbis and priests who end up in the court of law, or in prison. It’s not that we are more righteous than anyone else. Our philosophical assertion is that, without God, objective moral values simply do not exist. After all, if there is no objective morality, how can atheists blame rabbis for taking bribes, breach of trust, for fraud or for coercion? Or to accuse Catholic priests of raping young boys? Without God, not only is there no objective morality, but also no difference between ourselves and the animals. Like them, we are nothing more than the result of time and matter in a universe meant for destruction and ruin.
Without God, acts such as murder or rape may become evolutionarily unfashionable, but that still doesn’t make them objectively “evil”. From a naturalistic point of view, aside from the social ramifications, there is actually nothing wrong with raping someone or with a person eating another person alive. Just like an animal preying upon another animal in the wild – survival of the fittest. But let’s face it: deep down, each and every one of us knows that objective moral values DO exist. Some actions are truly evil, while other actions are truly good. We are all deeply touched when we watch a video of someone sacrificing their own needs for someone else. And we are all filled with anger when we see the tortured body of a child washed ashore. Philosopher Michael Ruse said:
“The man who says it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says 2+2=5.” [Dr. Michael Ruse]
WHAT MAKES SOMETHING RIGHT OR WRONG?
Acts such as rape, murder and abuse are not only socially unacceptable behaviors, but are also morally wrong. And it makes no difference if every person on earth believes them to be good. On the other hand: love, self sacrifice, and equality are moral values, even if every person on earth thinks they are not. Objective morality is independent and is not subject to the interpretation of a government or psychologist, who believes one thing today and will believe another tomorrow. Rather, it is derived from a perfect, stable God who never changes. If there is no higher power which objectively determines what is good and what is evil for us, all we have left are ever-changing opinions and personal views. We have no eternal truth to rely on. Today, cannibalism is considered evil, whereas tomorrow it could be a socially acceptable norm. In Plato’s dialog called Euthyphro, Socrates asks Euthyphro the following:
“…whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.” [Socrates]
Or, in other words, does God command us to do things because they are moral, or are those things moral because it was God who commanded we do them? Are certain acts good because God decided they are, or did God command them because they are good?
If we go with the first option, that a certain act is good because God decided it would be so, perhaps in a different universe, God could have decided that hate and terrorism are the moral values, just like the god represented by ISIS and Hamas. Therefore, in such a world, we would be obligated to hate one another. On the other hand, if we go with the second option, that a good deed is good in itself, we reach the philosophical conclusion that “good” is independent from God and that a good and moral act isn’t based in God, therefore we have no need for God.
The answer to Euthyphro’s dilemma is that it is a “false choice”. A false choice, or a false dilemma, is a fallacy of the Correlative-Based Fallacies type, wherein the options are presented as exclusive, even though, in reality, that is not the case. Both options are wrong.
There is a third option, which is presented to us in the Bible: that God Himself is good. And therefore, anything He decides, says or does, is necessarily good, as God’s very nature is the framework and the expression of all that is good. Thus, His will expresses and reflects His good nature.
As King David said:
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [Psalm 34:8]
God is the biggest, most maximal entity according to His definition. He is loving, merciful, just, impartial, a righteous judge, generous and so forth. Therefore, He would not determine that rape is moral and good in another world, because that would mean contradicting His very own nature. If God does exist, why does He allow evil and wickedness to even exist, you ask? We have dedicated a different clip to that question.