This is probably one of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God and especially as a negation towards moral relativism. Now before we start the argument, let’s define a couple of important terms:
1. Moral duties: the obligation to retreat from the ‘bad’ and fulfill the ‘good’.
2. Moral values: ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
3. Moral objectivism: moral values and duties that are independent of what people think (e.g. the Holocaust is bad, even if the Nazis succeeded in brainwashing the world to think that it wasn’t).
4. Moral relativism: moral values and duties that are dependent of what people think.
5. Moral intuition: an intuitional proposition is true because (1) it is self-evident, (2) needs no further justification, (2) and is known in full once all the facts are laid out (2+2=4 must be learned, but is justified by an appeal to intuition).
Here is the syllogism for the argument for those who like to see the logical flow:
1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
1. Therefore God does exist.
With these in mind let’s begin the argument!
In Defense of Premise 1:
Many an atheist proudly affirm that objective morality exists even in the absence of God. They state that the origin of morality is derived from the evolutionary process and is grounded in our society. It’s merely an adaptation to our hostile environment – just like legs or arms. But an obvious problem arises when one claims this: morality doesn’t become objective in a naturalistic worldview, it becomes merely an illusion of the mind conditioned throughout the ages. Why? Because it was put in our minds for the sole purpose of increasing our survivability rate. Nothing else. Therefore, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, racism, and sexual abuse as evil. Although, through the course of human evolutionary development, such actions have become ‘taboo’, there is no reason to believe that such actions are actually wrong. A person committing rape, for example, is simply going against the social norm and is thus on the same level as a person that belches at the dinner table or leaves the toilette seat up. The rapist is merely acting unfashionable. Morality when coupled with evolution becomes relativistic and non-binding, not objective and obligatory.
Some radical types have retreated to a spin-off of the famous Platonic Good to explain the existence of objective morality without God. They posit that the abstract concepts of love, charity, compassion, etc. exist in their own eternal realm and act within the non-abstract realm. However, a contradiction arises from this. From their claim it follows that in the absence of people, universals like charity would still exist. Why? Because these traits allegedly exist in an independent abstract dimension. However, this statements is incoherent because charity isn’t actually charitable. Secondly, I don’t see how this abstract dimension could interact with the physical dimension. It just doesn’t make sense. But that’s besides the point. Even if the abstract could interact with the physical dimension how would we know what is ‘good’ or ‘wrong’, since the only thing these abstract ideas could do is simply describe a particular set of actions and not actually oblige us to do anything. Thus, this theory neglects to answer both the meta-physical and normative ethical questions.
In Defense Of Premise 2:
I think it’s important to remember that the burden of proof is on the one that makes claims that are different from our moral intuition. This is to say that any theory that seems to contradict our ethical intuitions needs justification. But, this begs the question, do intuitions actually exist? The answer is yes. There are many different pathways to gaining knowledge and I think one of them is morality. I also think that with every pathway to knowledge there are certain “base beliefs”. These base beliefs range from things like self-awareness, mathematical equations, logical principles, and most importantly, basic moral laws. One might ask, “How do you know such ‘base beliefs’ exist?”. Well, Aristotle seemed to agree with me: “Some, indeed, demand to have the law proved, but this is because they lack education; for it shows lack of education not to know of what we should require proof, and of we should not. For it is quite impossible that everything should have a proof; the process would go on to infinity, so there would be no proof….” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1006a). If I always had to give justification for my beliefs, then I would have to ad infinitum. Forever. To stop this infinite regress one must appeal to the apparent: intuitions or base beliefs.
Take this conversation:
“What color is that apple?”
“How do you know the apple is red?”
“Because the apple is right in front of me….”
“How do you know the apple is right in front of you?”
“Because I see it….”
“How do you know you see it?”
“Because the I see the physical world and that apple is in the physical world.”
“How do you know you see the physical world?”
It seems I’m stuck. I don’t conclude that I see the physical world based upon any other evidence. The infinite regress seems apparent. We need intuitions; without them we wouldn’t be able to know anything.
So how does this prove that objective morals exist? Well I think goes like this:
(1) If objective morality does not exist, then our moral intuitions do not exist.
(2) Our moral intuitions do exist.
(C1) Therefore, objective morality exists.
We’ve already proven premise (2) of the argument above, so what about (1)? From our argument we see that if our moral intuitions suggested the objectivity morality, then we would observe that our intuitions would be things that would only make sense if morality were objective. I think that our intuitions of justice, fairness, tolerance, charity, etc. all point to objective morality because these things can’t exist in a relative world. There is no justice if nobody is wrong. There is no tolerance if you have no obligation to respect each other’s beliefs. The list goes on and on. Our base beliefs only make sense in an objective world and until proven wrong (since the burden of proof is on the opposing side) we have every reason to believe so.
We can be sure that we cannot truly be good without a law giver. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective and intuitional, that provides moral grounds for believing in God.
It interests me how the alleged “New Atheists” have rejected God as the source of moral objectivity. Richard Taylor on the subject writes, “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion…. Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”