Modern Underdog Blogspot

Why Morality Presupposes God’s Existence

[Note: Please read this essayin its entirety in order not to misunderstand what I am saying.]

Many atheists are good people, in the sense that they don’t live only for themselves but help others, give money to charitable organizations, serve their country, truly care for their family and friends, and don’t wish to hurt anybody. It is quite right that they should point out, when debating atheism with a theist, that nobody is justified in
jumping to the unwarranted conclusion that merely because they do not believe in God (or “a god”), they are morally corrupt and bad people. Holding to atheism doesn’t necessarily make them morally depraved, so they argue, and while there are morally
depraved atheists (mentioning names would be superfluous, I believe, but Howard Stern comes to mind), not all atheists are like that. There are many “good” atheists, so to speak.

While atheists are quite right about this
(there are plenty of people who are virtuous but don’t believe in God), the philosophical challenge I wish to present (or rather, re- present, for I am by no means the first one to do so) is that there is simply no reason for an atheist to be and do good. Let me make this clear:

While atheists are quite right about this
(there are plenty of people who are virtuous but don’t believe in God), the philosophical challenge I wish to present (or rather, re- present, for I am by no means the first one to do so) is that there is simply no reason for an atheist to be and do good. Let me make this clear:

If God doesn’t exist, nothing matters.


If God doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter if
you’re good or bad, if you help in emergency efforts or are one of those people who fly planes into buildings. It doesn’t matter, if there is no God, whether you donate selflessly to a Pro-Life organization or if you are an abortionist. It just doesn’t matter. If
this is all there is to life, if no one ever has to give an account of what he’s done, if there is no one who rewards and punishes, what’s it all matter? Why not just look out for yourself, maximize the pleasures and minimize the pains of life? Why not have fun and let everyone else suffer? Who cares if someone is being treated unjustly, as long as you’re feeling great? I mean, if there is no God and I simply cease to exist after death,
whether I’ve been a Mother Theresa or a Howard Stern, a St. Nicholas or a Mao Rae- Dong, why not be totally selfish and leave everything and everyone else behind?

This might seem shocking to many. But if you really think about it, it’s true. It doesn’t matter how many children die each year if there is no God. There is no reason why I should help anyone or care for anyone at all. Common sense and compassion, which we (hopefully) all possess, compels us to reject
such an idea that nothing matters and that we should only watch out for ourselves. But there is no reasonable answer to why we shouldn’t,

if God does not exist

Pretty much any atheist, I certainly hope, would be totally repulsed by the idea that there is no reason not to look out only for ourselves if there is no God. But why? It cannot be demonstrated rationally , so the only basis the atheist has for maintaining at least a minimal account of morality is emotion. It just doesn’t seem right to hurt other people, to steal from others, to cause
pain to the innocent. It just doesn’t feel right. But there is absolutely no rational reason an atheist could bring forward to
defend his living an at least minimally moral life.

What I am NOT Saying I am prone to be misunderstood here, so I
want to spell out precisely what I do and do not mean here. I doNOT mean to convey that
• all atheists are immoral all atheists should
• be immoral immorality is unique to atheists or
•necessarily connected to them one cannot learn morality or how to be
•moral unless one believes in God
[because even though many recognize
the moral law (natural law), they do not
reason further to the existence of the
moral lawgiver, God]

What I AM Saying On the other hand, here is what I do affirm:

•endorsing atheism makes it impossible to offer any rational arguments for why one should be moral, i.e. do good and avoid evil

Somehow, though, it is deep in everyone’s heart (for lack of a better term) that it is wrong to torture babies and getting a “kick” out of it, and that it is right to help and protect them instead.

What accounts for this? The atheist has no answer, except that he might say that it is simply a psychological defect in our brain that needs to be overcome, i.e. it is true that there are no reasons to be moral and therefore no one has an obligation to be moral and can just do whatever he likes. With this explanation, the atheist can save his atheism, but utters a most disgusting thing, namely that it does not matter whether one hurts innocent children, for instance, or not. Hardly anyone would affirm such a thing, though.

The only other answer I can think of that an
atheist might give is that there is a sort of
innate tendency that tells us that we ought
to do good and avoid evil for merely
pragmatic, i.e. practical, purposes. They
might think it is a sort of trait of evolution (in which most of them believe), one that
accounts for the fact that mankind has
survived until this very day. After all, if
everyone only cared for his own self, his
own pleasure, and not about anyone else, it
seems likely that mankind would not have survived very long. But this possible answer
has its problems: so what if mankind doesn’t survive very long? Who cares?
Remember, the atheist doesn’t believe in
God, and hence he can see no real meaning in life (ask Jean-Paul Sartre!). Why should anything or anyone care if mankind wil exist for a long time? This type of atheist response presupposes either the existence of God, who wishes mankind to live long, or that it is somehow meaningful or objectively
good that mankind should survive a long time. But such a presupposition would posit that there is a real good (and evil), which, however, had earlier been explained away as a merely pragmatic trait of evolution.

Thus, neither possible atheist answer can account for the fact that everyone knows, deep down, that certain things ought to be done and others ought to be condemned and avoided. (Not everyone may agree precisely what that is, but there is a sort of minimal basis everyone can agree on, e.g. it is wrong
to torture helpless widows, etc.–I call this “ethical minimalism.”)


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2 thoughts on “Why Morality Presupposes God’s Existence

  1. Pingback: why I do not believe in the existence of atheists « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

  2. I first want to flip the question: is it not morally repulsive to you to think that your moral behaviour depends on your judgement? If you didn’t think you were to be judged, you seem to imply, that you’d rape just because you were horny and murder just because you were stressed.
    In fact, is it not preferable to think that a person like me does good because it is good? I don’t need promises of Heaven or threats of Hell. Does that make me the better person?
    In answer to your main question though–what is the source of moral philosophy–I can give you a few.
    The evolutionary imperative is perhaps the most famous; cultures that practice amoral behaviour fail to propagate and die out. Morality comes down to the ‘Selfish Gene’; morality is the behaviour that propagates genes.
    Human-nature morality; it is in human nature to be mostly moral (with occasional exception). There are two forms of this, the first being derived directly from the evolutionary imperative described above. The second form of this is that certain traits, like empathy, are the result of developing intelligence. Empathy makes it emotionally hard to be unkind to people.

    One cannot forget the stories of unmistakable and heart-warming morality amongst animals to realise that God is not pre-supposed in morality. There is a video on Youtube of a dog risking its own life in traffic to save its canine friend that was hit (the warm warming story is that they both survived). There are numerous stories of animals adopting and raising children not just of different parents, but of different species (I’ve even seen a chimp bottle feed a lion cub).

    These may seem like woolly arguments to you, they may even seem slightly far from morality. I personally don’t see how this cannot seem like morality, but I’ve known theists say this isn’t morality before. But it’s as robust (if not more robust) than any carrot-and-whip religiously derived morality I’ve ever heard.

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