Ok, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I cannot see any rational grounds for the idea of morality without the idea of God. As far as I can tell, the two ideas are intrinsically linked and cannot exist without each other. I’m offering $25 to the first person who reads this post and can prove me wrong.
The idea of morality is based on the idea of “should.” We should be nice to each other. Personal property should be secure and not liable to theft or destruction. The innocent should not suffer, and the evil should not prosper. Children should be able to be children; they should not be molested, have to go without food, or die from preventable diseases. I think we would all agree on these; but, why? How do we know what should and should not be?
We would all agree that serial murder is wrong; but how do we know it’s wrong? It seems to me that the idea of should inherently implies the idea of design. There is no should if there is no ideal which the should not deviates from. Without some sort of design, then there is no way of discerning or delineating what should be from what should not be. In other words, serial murder should not exist because it deviates from the utopia of peace and security to which we aspire.
The idea of design then inherently implies the idea of a designer. A design cannot be random, it is the antithesis of randomness, and anything which is not random is intentional. Anything which is intentional must be established by intent, that is, by an intellect.
Another way of saying this: a standard of morality must be defined either subjectively or objectively. I will use the ideas of symbols and of rocks to illustrate the difference between subjective and objective definition. A symbol means whatever the person who established the symbol wants it to mean. So, red lights mean stop because our society says that they means stop, we could just as easily redefine them to mean go any time we wanted to. A rock, on the other hand, is always a rock no matter what anybody says or thinks about it. You can use any word you want to signify the idea of a rock; but a rock by any other name is still a rock. Morality, then, if it exists, must be either subjectively defined, like symbols, or objectively defined, like rocks.
If morality is subjective then it is defined by each individual person or groups of people concerned. There is an inherent problem with this, however. If morality is subjective, then I cannot tell you what is right or wrong for you. Just like with symbols; if you and your best friend decide on a secret handshake, then I can’t tell you that you’re doing it wrong. If morality is subjectively defined by the individual, then no one individual has any business telling any other individual what he should or should not be doing. If you decide that you’re going to cheat, then that’s your business and I have no right to tell you what to do. If you want to lie to your spouse, then that’s your decision. If you want to molest children, and morality is subjectively defined by each individual, then I have no moral authority to tell you that you’re wrong or stop you in any way.
The same scenario is at work even if morality is subjectively defined by groups, nations or cultures. There are tribes around the world that buy and sell girls to become child brides. Just because their culture says it’s ok, does that mean it is? There are cultures that penalize women who have been raped by executing them. Is that ok? In the 1930’s and 40’s, an entire nation decided that it was a good idea to round up Jews, send them to death camps and murder them with less dignity than a herd of cattle. Was that ok? No? Why not? If morality is subjectively defined, then morality does not exist except as an individual opinion, and it has no universal authority. That is to say, if morality is subjectively defined, then it does not actually exist, it’s something that each person fabricates for themselves out of thin air.
So, what if it’s objectively defined? What if it’s more like gravity or the laws of thermo-dynamics? Ok, so we discover natural laws and principles through scientific experimentation. How do we discover the “Laws of Morality”? You can’t put justice in a test tube. If morality exists in the same objective way that gravity does, then it is meaningless to us because we do not have the means to discover its reality. All we would have is individual subjective interpretations of that objective reality, which gets us no further.
But let’s go back to what I said before. Should inherently implies design, which implies intent, which implies intellect. An objective standard of morality that is discoverable to us in any meaningful way can only exist if some intellect established that standard and revealed its nature to us. But wouldn’t that make morality subjective? The only scenario that gives morality any real and meaningful significance is if it is established by an intellect that transcends all of humanity and has the authority to impose its will upon us. Then its standard of morality would be universal and unique.
The only intellect that meets such a requirement is God.
Therefore, if God exists, He, and He alone, defines morality; if God does not exist then morality has no meaningful existence, which is, experientially, the same thing as saying that morality does not exist.
If morality does not exist, then child molestation is not wrong.
Additionally, ideas like justice hang off the idea of morality. If there is no right or wrong, then you can’t wrong me, and I can’t demand justice for being wronged. And, if there is no God to define human rights, then what other authority has the right and the standing to define them? You have the right to free speech? Says who? The government? And if it didn’t exist or it changed its mind? Justice, human rights, and morality do not exist in an atheistic universe. The only way these can possibly have any meaningful existence is if they are defined and sustained by a transcendent and authoritative intellect, a.k.a. God.
Now, prove me wrong, I dare you.
Here’s how: post your rebuttal in the comments. I will, of course, discuss your answer with you and if you are the first person to prove me wrong, I will give you $25.