Good Without God: Do You Really Need God to Be “Good”? part 3

In my last article, I discussed the necessity of an explanation for moral law. I argued that since moral law exists, and since it could have been otherwise, it is a contingent thing, and required a cause sufficient to explain its existence. In this article, I want to begin examining the cause of moral law. What causes morality? As will be seen, the answer to this question leads us to God. In this article, I will defend the following syllogism:

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist

Objective moral values do exist

Therefore, God exists

What this syllogism attempts to do is show that since moral values do exist, we have reasonable grounds for believing that God exists. Since this is a valid syllogism, if the first two premises are true, then the conclusion is absolutely true of necessity. Because we have already seen that the second premise is true, I will begin to defend the first premise: that if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. 

This premise is based on the subject of my last article: that moral law requires an explanation sufficient to cause it. To demonstrate the truth or falsity of this premise, one need only to ask himself, “what could have caused morality as we know it?”. On close examination, one finds that there are only two possible explanations for morality: naturalism or supernaturalism (i.e God). That is to say, either objective morality evolved naturalistically, or it finds its source in God. In this article, I will argue that the first premise is justified because naturalism fails to account for all of the facts of our moral experience. 

First, naturalism can not account for the origins of moral law. It is often argued that moral laws simply evolved within human cultures as a means of herd survival. Though this idea may have an appeal to the naturalist, it fails as an overall theory concerning the origins of morality. Under this theory, naturalism assumes that morality evolved within the human animal as a means of improving our chances of survival. Though this may make sense of moral prescriptions like “Thou shalt not kill,” it doesn’t make sense of moral duties such as “thou shalt not commit adultery.” Why would adultery decrease the chance of human survival? In fact, if anything, adultery should increase the chances of naturalistic survival by increasing the chances of producing more offspring, whether within marriage or not. Or, consider the prescription, “don’t covet.” Does coveting in the heart decrease the odds of survival? No. It does nothing to change whether or not humanity is able to survive. Since there are elements of our moral duty that are completely unexplainable by naturalistic evolution, then evolution can not be a possible explanation for the origin of morality. So naturalism fails to account for the origins of our overall moral understanding. 

Second, naturalism can not account for the extent of our moral understanding. What I mean by this is: a naturalistic theory of morality can not account for the different types of moral law. Specifically, the breakdown of our moral law into categories such as outward and inward. Could naturalism account for “thou shalt not kill”? Yes. But can it account for moral laws concerning our thoughts? No. If naturalism is true, then why do we feel guilty for our malicious thoughts? Thoughts of covetousness, of dislike for another person, do not increase or decrease our survival. They can’t make the species better or worse physically. Yet, for some reason, we feel guilt for this category of moral action. Naturalism can not explain why we would evolve this sort of morality because it would not contribute to survival. 

Third, naturalism can not explain the prescriptive nature of morality. Morality tells us what it is we “ought” to do. It prescribes actions for us in the various circumstances of life. We have already seen these prescriptive laws to be objective in nature. They bind us all. But the problem for the naturalist in encountering prescriptive laws is that it fails to explain any prescriptions. If moral law was produced as a natural law by naturalistic processes, then it is descriptive by definition. Natural laws do not prescribe anything, they only describe things. They tell us what something is, or what it is like, not how we should act, or what we should do. Descriptives tell us that a dropped object will fall, but prescriptives tell us “thou shalt not kill”. But if natural laws are descriptive, and moral law is a naturalistic law, then we should expect them to be descriptive, not prescriptive.  

So on at least three counts naturalism fails as an explanation for morality. It fails to account for the origin of moral law. It can not explain the extent of our moral understanding. Lastly, it has failed as an explanation for the nature of moral reality. But if naturalism fails to explain morality, then what can explain it? In the next article, I will defend the premise that theism can adequately explain morality as we know it; and, if this is true, then the first premise in our final syllogism is true, and God does exist!


Christian. Apologist. Undergrad. Missio Deo

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