The Moral Argument
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
When I speak of something being objective, I mean, something which is independent of our minds.
It seems that premise (1) is agreed upon. Atheist existentialists have for the most part denied objective moral values in the world. They are at best things which we create.
Nietzsche, for example, thought that the death of God would destroy all values and meaning in life. He says “there are no moral facts, only interpretations.” We must be our own god and create value for ourself.
Australian philosopher and atheist, J.L. Mackie has been quoted saying, “If . . . there are . . . objective values, they make the existence of a God more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a God.”
According to Mackie, ethics and morals must be invented. They are not mind-independent.
What do the logical positivists of the early 20th Century have to say about ethical statements? The positivists believed that there are really only two types of meaningful statements – tautologies and empirical truths. These statements must be verified in order to be meaningful. Ethics is not *in* the world, though and Ludwig Wittgenstein has said that “Ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental” (Lawhead 513).
A.J. Ayer also said, ““The statement ‘It is your moral duty to tell the truth” means nothing more than ‘I recommend you to tell the truth’”(Lawhead 509).
Richard Dawkins would agree with all these radical claims of ethics. He says, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
So it seems, that at least some atheists agree on premise (1).
What then, is the case for premise (2)? Do objective moral values actually exist in the world?
It would seem like they do at first glance. No one can hold to a subjective view of ethics, for if one did then they could not deem or judge anything as being good nor evil. Ethics itself would completely vanish. There is moral rightness and wrongness. No person would dare think that the Holocaust is just subjectively bad. The Holocaust would be wrong even if all the Nazis brainwashed everyone into believing that it was right.
Objective moral values do exist in the world. But where do we get ought-ness from is-ness? That’s where premise (3) comes in.
Moral values come in the form of commands. What we ought to do or ought not to do. It’s impossible to have abstract objects (numbers, logical truths etc) give us these values because, again, they do not stand in causal relations with us. God is the best explanation of objective moral values. Again, I’m purely talking about *where* these moral values come from.
J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982),pp. 115-16.
Lawhead, William F. The Contemporary Voyage: 1900 -. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002. Print.
Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995), quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)