I was listening to William Lane Craig, professor at Talbot School of Theology debate Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The topic was, Is goodness without God good enough?
‘Interesting question,’ I thought. Where does good come from?
How or why would we be good if God didn’t exist? Would we be good? Could we be good? The question lingers in the air as I ponder the thought.
Among the many arguments apologists use for the existence of God, the moral argument intrigues me the most. Both Christians and atheists alike struggle with the problem of pain & suffering, and the problem of evil.
From human trafficking and the exploitation of children all the way down to Lions killing gazelles, the existence of pain and suffering doesn’t sit well with us. And the thought of God permitting evil is downright offensive.
So, what do we do with the moral argument? Let’s take a closer look.
I am very much a amateur apologist, however, there seem to be four themes that emerge from the moral argument.
1. All Morality and rules come from a higher authority
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than our hands and feet and teeth . . . . Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and any deeper meaning is illusory . . .
~Michael Ruse, philosopher
My oldest daughter has her permit and is learning to drive. Teaching your kid to drive ranks right up there with potty training and explaining the birds and the bees! Let’s just say . . . . I don’t love it!
Sitting next to her in the passenger seat, I say things like . . .
- you don’t have the right of way, you must yield
- slow down! you can’t go over the speed limit
- use the left lane to pass someone on the freeway
Are the ‘rules of the road’ innate? Were we born knowing them? Or, can we just say that we do them because it is the right thing to do? Of course not! The government makes the laws, and we are expected to follow them.
All rules that we must follow come from a higher authority.
Why did we have to be home by 11 when we were teenagers?
Why did we finish our homework before we played with friends?
because of a higher authority –> our parents
Why do kids have to get a hall pass to go to the bathroom?
Why do kids have to do physical education testing?
because of a higher authority –> the school
Why do we have to take a class to become members at church?
because of a higher authority –> the church
Why do we have to be at work by 8:30?
because of a higher authority –> the boss
Why do we have to wait until we are 21 to drink alcohol, or until we are 18 to vote?
because of a higher authority –> the government
The rules that we follow are given to us by a higher authority. Whether they come from parents, schools, churches, the government, or a boss, they come from somewhere. And they come from something higher than us.
Does God have to exist for moral values to exist? Well, yes! All of the rules that we follow come from a higher authority.
Why can’t I sleep with someone that isn’t my spouse?
Why can’t I just ignore the neighbor that needs help?
Why do I have to live by the golden rule?
Why should I support a child in Africa?
because there is a higher authority –> God
And, much like the universe, moral values and duties must have a cause. Everything comes from something. Nothing can exist uncaused or uncreated, except God.
2. We take care of ‘the least of these’
A friend at a local ministry recently told me that in Ethiopia, in order to control the number of homeless kids that roam the streets, or “street kids” as they’re called, they drive through the city and shoot them. How horrific! How could anyone shoot children?!
Without the existence of God, without the existence of objective morals values, this action might be the best for the community or the species as a whole.
Yet we find the thought of it reprehensible. Why?
As part of the Darwinian Theory, the idea of survival of the fittest is widely accepted in the scientific world and beyond. In other words, those that are better equipped for survival will survive and those that aren’t, won’t.
Yet, we intervene in this process, and help the ‘least fit’ to survive. Why?
As a purely scientific description, disabled people are not ‘the fittest.’ So, why should we help them to survive if morals are merely a biological adaptation? If there is no God who tells us to love and care for ‘the least of these’, then why do we do it?
‘We just know it’s the right thing to do’ is a painfully insufficient answer. It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
The reality is that we do feel compelled to take care of disabled people. Many government agencies and nonprofit organizations are dedicated to bettering the lives of those with disabilities. We spend a lot of time and resources helping the weakest of our species.
Thank God that we care for these precious people. They make life so much richer.
3. The necessity of pain, suffering and evil
I always wonder why people have such a problem with the existence of pain and suffering. And, why do we assume that evil should not exist?
According to William Lane Craig, evil may be necessary for a world with the greatest amount of good, and one in which there is the greatest number of people who know God.
Take the 1998 movie Pleasantville. A brother and sister are thrust into the perfect world of a 1950’s sitcom. Like Leave It To Beaver, everything is just swell. Though there is no color in their world and every day is exactly like the one before, it is safe and perfect. There is no violence, pain, hunger or injustice.
However, there is also no adventure, no love, no romance and no passion.
Another movie that illustrates this is The Giver (yes, I’m a movie junkie!). After a tragedy destroys most of the earth, a self contained, isolated, utopian society is created. One in which there is no disease, hunger, or war. Citizens take daily injections of a substance that gets rid of emotions. And memories of how the world once was, have been taken away.
Once memories are returned to them, they see the triumphs of man; love, compassion, and cooperation. And, they see the darkness of man; war, terror, and injustice. Tears of joy are shed as memories of the real world flood their minds.
A real world is better than a perfect one. The world that God created is much richer then a perfect world ever could be.
4. The existence of purpose and meaning
As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Does God matter? How important is a purpose driven life?, human beings are why creatures. We not only seek to know what, and how things work, but also, why we are here and why things happen. We want to know there is a reason. And whys lead to purpose and meaning.
And, if there were no God, and therefore, no meaning or purpose in life . . . .
Why would we want to better ourselves?
Why would we pursue happiness?
Why would we go on a mission trip to feed the poor?
Why would we write a novel or a song?
Why would we love?
None of these are necessary for health or survival.
Without meaning or purpose, human beings would simply be the most advanced primates; the top of the food chain. As humans we may have awareness, and advanced cognitive abilities, but beyond that, without God, we’re just animals outside of the zoo.
It is not merely a question of ‘Is goodness without God good enough?’ It is that there would be NO goodness without God.
There would be no morality. There would be no one assisting people in need. There would be no color, passion, or love. And, there would be no purpose or meaning to our lives.
Without God, goodness would simply not exist.