Good Without God: Do You Really Need God to Be Good? Part 4

Naturalism has failed as an adequate explanation for moral reality. In my last article, I contended that naturalism can not explain the origin of moral value, the extent of our moral understanding, nor can it explain the prescriptive nature of morality. With these three major components of morality left unaccounted for by naturalism, it is necessary to conclude that naturalism is a failed moral theory. It doesn’t make sense of all of the facts. In addition to this, in the previous article I stated that there are really only two possible explanations for morality as we know it: naturalism, or supernaturalism. If naturalism fails as an explanation of morality, then supernaturalism remains the only viable explanation. In this article, I will demonstrate that supernaturalism accounts for the facts of morality as we know it exceptionally well.

First, supernaturalism makes sense of the origins of morality. Naturalism failed this test because morality is not the sort of thing that could have evolved over time by natural selection, because by definition natural selection chooses those things that increase a species odds of survival. But not all of our objective moral values aid in survivability. For this reason, morals could not have arisen by evolutionary means. However, supernaturalism (i.e theism) can explain the origins of morality. The fact that morality exists objectively outside of us, and seemingly unattached to any other natural thing, would indicate that its source lies outside of us or our world. In addition, the origin of morality must be something moral, for effects resemble their causes, at least to some degree. But this can’t be said if nature is the origin of our morality, for nature is not a moral thing. Because the origin of morality exists outside of nature and outside of ourselves, it must be supernatural. Since effects resemble their cause, the cause is moral. God is the only thing we know that is both supernatural and perfectly moral, so only God can adequately function as a theory of moral origin.

Not only does theism adequately explain the origin of moral law, it completely explains the extent of our moral understanding. On close examination, naturalism was only able to explain certain categories of moral law, such as murder, or any other act that would decrease survivability. However, it failed to account for other categories of morality, such as our thoughts, or sexual morals. Naturalism can’t explain why derogatory thoughts, or adultery, are objectively wrong, for they do nothing to decrease our odds of survival. But guilty feelings about poor thoughts, or shunning sexual infidelity are exactly the sorts of moral laws we should expect if theism is true. If there is a God, then he sees our thoughts, and our conscience is bothered by this offense against Him. If there is a God, who’s nature is entirely good, then he would expect sexual purity of us, and incorporate that into our moral understanding. These categories of morality are predicted under a theistic system, but tragically unaccounted for by naturalism.

Third and finally, theism explains prescriptions in moral law. We saw in the last article that if naturalism is true, and the material world is all there is, then morality is a natural law. However, since natural laws are descriptive by definition, they can not prescribe anything. There is nothing within the natural world that can give force to prescriptive laws. Though a completely material world can’t explain prescriptions, theism can. Where naturalism leaves the world void of anything that can give force to moral duty, theism does exactly the opposite. By positing the existence of a completely perfect God who prescribes duties that are in accord with His good nature, theism explains where prescriptions come from.

Although naturalism fails on three counts to explain moral reality, we have seen that theism does adequately explain morality. It offers a thorough explanation for the origin, extent, and prescriptions in moral law. Based on these three counts, the first premise in the following syllogism is true:

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

Objective moral values do exist

Therefore God exists

The reason the above explanations demonstrate the truth of the first premise is that they thoroughly account for the ontological nature of morality, where all other explanations fail. Since theism is the only comprehensive theory of morality, we have adequate reason to believe that it is true. Therefore, the theistic God exists, and offers the only explanation for the moral law we find in our universe. For this reason, we must answer the question, “Can you be good without God?” with a resounding “no”. Though you may know right from wrong, and behave accordingly, by removing God, you remove the foundation for moral reality. Without Him, there is no way to say anything is good or bad. You can not be “good” without God.


Christian. Apologist. Undergrad. Missio Deo

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