God Is: An Introduction to the Evidence for the Existence of God, Part 25

EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD FROM EXPERIENCE: MORALITY 

            As a human community, we experience that there are objective moral values. These moral values are not simply the values of individuals, or the social mores of a particular era or country. Rather, we understand these values to be objective, that is, they’re true regardless of time, place or the changing fads of various generations. What’s more, they’re really true. In other words, they’re true, not because they’re the parameters of human behavior on which humans, over the millennia of our existence and moral evolution, have come to agree. Rather, they’re objectively true because they reflect reality, independent of human connivance or experience. Like the proposition that 2 + 2 = 4 is objectively true because it reflects reality as it is, so there are objective moral principles that are true because they reflect reality as it is. They can’t be rejected without rejecting reality itself, without rejecting truth itself.

            To kill an innocent human life, for instance, is objectively immoral. The deed can’t be done without committing a grave moral wrong. The circumstances simply don’t exist that morally justify the willful destruction of innocent human life. We may argue over what constitutes human life, or how far we must go to avoid killing innocents in our effort to avoid another grave moral wrong or potential horror. But, we may never argue that it is morally right to kill an innocent person, much less that it can ever be a positive good.

            The existence of objective morals places upon us a genuine responsibility to do good and avoid evil. This is a real obligation, and not one out of which we may excuse ourselves. When we see an evil being done, we have a real obligation to confront that evil. Circumstances can mitigate our responsibility, but they can never completely exonerate us from our moral obligations. When we have a choice between a moral good and a moral evil, we are obliged to choose the good, even if the consequences of doing so make life more difficult for us, or even bring suffering upon us. We may not choose evil in order to avoid another evil or accomplish a perceived or genuine good.

            Given that there are objective morals, and a genuine responsibility to do good and avoid evil, it’s reasonable to ask: from where do these moral values and obligations spring? Just as eternal truths can’t come from finite human minds, so eternal objective moral values can’t come from finite human minds. If they did, they would change, which means they wouldn’t be objective. There must, then, be an eternal mind from which these eternal, objective moral values spring.

             If the atheist worldview is correct, that we’re all nothing more than the result of random, material processes that have no purpose, how could objective moral values emerge from random, purposeless, material processes? They couldn’t. If moral values and obligations emerge only from humans, from our own priorities, wants and needs, then there’s no basis on which to oblige anyone to act in a particular way, other than one’s self. I can only oblige myself, but not you, or anyone else. There are no grounds for which to judge any action right or wrong, only actions that are consistent or inconsistent with my own personal priorities.

          But, what of the social contract? Couldn’t morality be based on agreed moral parameters, social mores that rule society at large? Could these moral parameters not be different in different societies? Yes. But, that’s simply another way of saying that there are no objective moral values. If moral values are determined by humans, whether in society or as individuals, then all morality is subject to the whims of humans. There’s no right or wrong. Murder would be no more wrong than a preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla. Slavery would be no more wrong than choosing a career of dentistry over orthopedics. As well, there could be no moral obligations, no obligation to do good and avoid evil. Any idea of society improving itself morally, such as changing the social contract to outlaw slavery, would make no sense or, at least, one could provide no moral argument for doing so. It would be every man and woman for him or herself, which would quickly turn into might makes right. The weak would become subject to the will of the strong, with no protections, because the foundation of morality would be gone or, at best, transferred from an objective, universal reality to the personal concerns or desires of each individual. The result would be moral and societal chaos.

           Yet, our experience as a human community affirms the existence of objective moral values, even if we sometimes disagree on what those values are, which apply universally, and what circumstances may mitigate personal responsibility. No society has held up murder, defined as the willful destruction of innocent human life, as a positive good. Even those societies that practiced human sacrifice did so because they were convinced that, in some way, the one sacrificed either deserved his or her fate (ie: prisoners of war), were willing offerings (ie: the attendants of the dead king at Cahokia who agreed to be buried with him), or were not human or fully human (ie: slaves in the antebellum South or the unborn under current U. S. law). Theft, the taking of another’s legitimate property without justifiable reasons or due course, has never been lauded as a moral good. Similarly, while adultery has been tolerated in some societies and social circles, it’s never celebrated as the positive good that is marriage. Even those who, on philosophical grounds, deny the existence of objective morals become indignant when they are the victims of someone who embraces their philosophy.

            What explains our experience of objective moral values? If they did not, indeed could not, have emerged from the human community, from whence did they come? For theists, it is clear that they come from God, Who is good, and the foundation of all that is good. Many will quickly point out that Christians have often failed, and failed miserably, to live faithfully the objective morals of which they claim their God is the foundation. Christians would be the first to admit as much. But, failure to live up to a moral ideal doesn’t prove the irrationality, much less the non-existence, of such an ideal, any more than the school child’s imperfect triangle proves the non-existence of triangles. In fact, it proves just the opposite. If there were no objective morality, there would be no standard by which to judge when we fail to live faithfully the good life.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

 

 

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