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The Moral Argument. Is goodness without God good enough?. A Cautionary Note. The argument is NOT that knowledge of God is required to be good. People could breath long before scientists knew about air. Romans 2:15

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the moral argument

The Moral Argument

Is goodness without God good enough?

a cautionary note
A Cautionary Note

The argument is NOT that knowledge of God is required to be good.

People could breath long before scientists knew about air.

Romans 2:15

They [Gentiles] show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

Neither is the argument about what our moral duties are or how we can know about them.

moral argument
Moral Argument
  • Premises:
    • If God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    • Objective moral values and duties do exist

Therefore, God exists.

values and duties
Values and Duties

Values have to do with whether something is Good or Bad

Duties have to do with whether something is Right or Wrong

objective and subjective
Objective and Subjective

Objective is independent of people’s opinions

Subjective is dependent on people’s opinions


The Holocaust was objectively wrong even though the Nazis who carried it out thought that it was right.

objective moral values require god
Objective moral values require God

Traditionally Moral values have been based in God

In the absence of God why think humans have moral worth?

On Naturalism moral values seem to be just the by-product of biological evolution and social conditioning.

To think that human beings are special and our morality objectively true is speciesism

objective moral duties
Objective Moral Duties
  • Traditionally moral duties come from God
    • e.g. The 10 Commandments
  • On atheism human beings are just animals and animals have no moral obligations to each other.
  • Certain actions such as rape may not be biologically and socially advantageous and become taboo but there is nothing to show they are really wrong.
atheistic misunderstandings
Atheistic Misunderstandings

We are not saying that all atheists are immoral.

We are not saying that atheists can’t recognise moral values and duties.

Given that atheists can recognise human value we are not say that they can not work out an ethical code of conduct.

Belief in God is not necessary for objective morality; God is.

euthyphro dilemma
Euthyphro Dilemma

Is something good because God wills it? Or does God will something because it is good?

  • If you say that something is good because God wills it, then what is good becomes arbitrary.
    • God could have willed that torture be good
  • But if you say that God wills something because it is good, then what is good or bad is independent of God.
    • So what need then for God as the basis for morality?
answer to euthyphro
Answer to Euthyphro

It is a false dilemma as there is a third alternative, namely, God wills something because He is good.

God’s own nature is the standard of goodness and his commands the expression of his nature.

It would be contrary to God’s nature to make commands that would harm the creation that he loves.

atheistic moral platonism
Atheistic Moral Platonism
  • Plato believed in a realm of non-physical entities that were self existent.
    • “The Good” was just one of these entities.
  • Some atheists say that moral values like: Justice, Mercy, Love, etc., just exist
response to moral platonism
Response to Moral Platonism
  • Moral values seem to be properties of persons, and it’s hard to understand how something like ‘justice’ can exist as an abstraction.
  • The view provides no basis for moral duties.
    • Even if justice exists why are we obligated to be just?
  • If moral values exist then why wouldn’t their counter parts, hatred , greed & selfishness exist too.
    • Why wouldn’t we be obligated to align our lives to these objects instead?
  • Why would evolution produce creatures that would correspond to these moral platonic objects
human flourishing
Human Flourishing
  • Good is whatever contributes to Human Flourishing.
  • Arbitrary: Why are facts that contribute to Human flourishing more valuable than similar facts for ants or mice
  • Implausibility: Atheists will sometimes say that moral properties attach themselves to a natural state of affairs.

e.g. the property of badness necessarily attaches to a man beating his wife. Or the property of goodness to a mother nursing her infant

  • Why think these strange non-natural properties like ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ even exist, much less attach themselves to certain states of affairs.
objective moral values and duties exist
Objective moral values and duties exist

Moral Experience: We trust our five senses and cognitive faculties to tell us the truth about the external world. We should trust that our moral cognitive faculties tell us the truth about reality.

Persons who fail to see that it is true that some things are right/wrong are just as handicapped as people who are blind.

Do correctly functioning humans really think that actions like the Hindu practice of suttee (burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands) is morally neutral?

sociobiological objections
Sociobiological Objections
  • Do we have a reason to doubt our moral experience?
    • Morality is just an illusion created by evolution so we can’t trust it.
    • Even if morality is real what are the chances that evolution gave us the ability to determine what they are?
response to sociobiological objections
Response to Sociobiological Objections


  • Genetic fallacy: you can’t show a true claim is false by demonstrating how the belief came about.
  • So applied to the evolution of moral beliefs we can’t us it to defeat moral truth claims.


  • Begs the question by assuming atheism is true.
    • If God exists then he can plan/guide evolution to ensure our moral reasoning abilities are reliable.
  • Would be self defeating as all or cognitive faculties come about from evolution

We have given reasons to accept both premises and the conclusion follows that there is a personal entity that provides a basis for morality

While the cosmological arguments are good the moral argument resonates with most people. It isn’t shrouded in complex science and we are confronted with moral choices on a daily basis.

The moral argument puts flesh and bones on the ‘first cause’ and ‘designer’. This entity now begins to appear as the kind of God who would care about his creation and provide a method of our salvation.