Monday, 8 October 2012

The moral argument for God's existence

The structure of the argument is as follows:

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.

 I am using Aristotle’s definition of God as ‘a first uncaused cause, intelligent, immaterial, eternal and most good being who is the source of order in the universe.’  ‘Objective’ means what is independent of people’s opinion, like the laws of physics. It must transcend all races, cultures, religions and situations. Moral value refers to the worth of a person or action, while moral duty refers to our obligation to act in a certain way.

 In a purely natural, materialistic universe, moral values and duties emerge simply to facilitate survival of the people in charge, whether they be rulers of the Third Reich or the elected politicians of a parliamentary democracy. They are not objective in any sense. What is right for one society is wrong for another. People within a given society can make up their own rules of right and wrong in defiance of the legally enshrined laws as long as they don’t get caught. In principle, nothing is ruled out – genocide, eugenics, rape, murder, greed, lust for power are not objectively wrong. It’s all just social convention, either forced by the ruling class or agreed by the majority for what they perceive to be their own individual or collective interest (e.g. give work  and purpose to the unemployed, as did Hitler in 1930s Germany).

In such a universe there is no reason to regard a human being as having any sacred value. He or she is valued only according to how useful he or she is to society, or to neighbours, friends and relatives. His or her life is worth no more than that of a blade of grass, a bacterium or a dog. All are the products or by-products of a purely mechanical evolutionary process in a pointless universe. The concept of morality is just an illusion manufactured by the brain, along with justice, love, truth and beauty. Even altruism is dismissed as an evolutionary device.  A philosophical materialist talking about morals is deluded if he thinks he has the authority to pronounce any of the Ten Commandments right or wrong. Which is not to say he can’t act morally. Most do; but they can’t do so without contradicting their godless worldview.

Neither are moral duties objective under this materialistic worldview. Animals do not have moral duties: animals kill for food but they don’t murder or act with gratuitous cruelty; neither are they expected to protect other animals with animal rights. On the naturalistic view animals are no different from humans other than by degree. If humans are not qualitatively different from animals there is no  qualitative difference between refraining from harming another human being and eating with bad table manners.

And yet we know this is not true. Objective moral values and duties do exist. We feel bad or apprehensive when transgressions occur: e.g. when a person is murdered or tortured.   We know this intuitively and they exist throughout humanity in all its manifestations. They are not illusions. So where does objective morality come from? It can only be God. It is God’s own nature which is good. It is from God that the commandments for living come and they flow out of his nature.

 Is moral behaviour restricted to believers in God? No. Moral behaviour does not require belief in God but it does require the existence of God to make any kind of sense.

I am no theologian but it is my understanding that in the case of Christianity at least Jesus specifically says that the Holy Spirit 'will convict/convince the (unbelieving) world concerning sin and righteousness'  See John 16:7-11.  And Romans 2:14-16 speaks of God's law being written on the hearts of gentiles (non-Jews). The non-believer who wilfully and knowingly rejects God, however good to his fellow man or woman, does, unfortunately,  commit a cosmically important sin, setting himself or herself up as judge and too proud to submit to his or her Creator, and therfeore at risk of submitting to a self-appointed god on Earth (e.g. the current leader of North Korea is one of thousands of examples that rear their heads through human history).

For an academic exposition on the existence of God by W.L.Craig (a brillliant Christian philosopher who is also an expert on cosmology, quantum mechanics and elementary particle physics) listen to the podcasts on this website. The students ask searching questions, ones which you may ask yourself, and he attempts to deal with them.

Author 2077 AD
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