Chapter three in my continuing commentary on the book God or Godless?
This is the moral argument for God’s existence. The resident Christian makes the predictable claim that without an objective grounding all moral values are permissible and implicitly assumes that God is the only possible moral grounding. The atheist—although bemoans this argument is sickeningly common—seems to outright misunderstand the argument.
The atheist claims that because God commands abhorrent things in the Bible then it does not ground our morality. But that is not what the argument claims, it claims that if there is no god then there is no objective grounding for morality and therefore we are unable to say anything is wrong. I might as well paraphrase William Lane Craig in saying ‘if there is no God then rape is just against the moral fashion‘. And the atheist never addresses this.
The atheist does account for what I call ‘moral intuitions’; the things we think are moral and immoral. And this intuition, given that it is largely agreed, really is nothing more than a fashion. The details even change country to country. But, without God, is there any objective morality at all?
The first answer is that it is a red herring. It doesn’t matter, to the question of if God exists, whether objective morality exists. If, indeed, no god does lead to moral relativism then, well, damn. There is no evidence that objective morality exists that in turn needs us to call on God to answer it.
The second answer is that there is a reason to believe that objective morality exists. A serial killer who likes harming and killing people does do what they value, but they impinge on the values of others and that is what we mean by immoral. When Sam Harris wrote The Moral Landscape the first thing he did was properly define morality. And on a robust definition, there is a right and a wrong to morality.