You don’t have to believe in God to know the difference between right and wrong

The question of morality and the moral argument for God is one of the most misunderstood around.

‘I don’t need to believe in your God to live a good life or to know the difference between good and evil, you t***!’ said everyone I’ve ever raised the issue with.

This usually creates such a high level of indignation that the only possible recourse is a bare-knuckle brawl under a motorway. But if only people would wait for the end of the sentence, rather than insisting on a rumble to the death, we might get somewhere.

So, it’s completely and incontrovertibly true that you don’t have to believe in God to know the difference between right and wrong, or to live a good moral life. I’m glad we got that one sorted out.

But how about this: if there is no God – if we are just molecules banging into one another at random – then why should we believe that morality is anything other than personal choice? Why is good ‘good’ and bad ‘bad’? Why should we think that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are actually things?

If there is no God, then morality is just the by-product of socio-biological evolution. Right and wrong are just decided by humans. Morality is subjective.

Now, you might not see a problem with this, and I agree it sounds fine…until you realise the following: If there is no God, and no objective morality, then when the Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews or the Rwandan genocide happened, whilst we can say ‘that’s not how we would have done it, lads’, we can’t actually say that they were really wrong. They were just using their freedom to choose, just engaging in survival of the fittest.

If humans decide morality, then they can decide that anything is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That’s what happens if morality is indeed subjective. In a nightclub where’s there’s no dress code whatsoever, a man turning up in loose robes revealing too much is doing nothing worse than the guy who turns up in a dinner jacket.

Now, hopefully you will be repulsed at the idea that things like genocide, rape, child abuse are OK. Whether you’re a Christian or an agnostic or an atheist, you know that these things are really, really wrong. They are not just bad in your opinion. They are bad and wrong and evil in a much deeper, more binding sense.

But you need to understand that if you don’t believe in God, you have no reason to think that this binding morality is possible. Your worldview doesn’t allow for it. As an atheist, you are committed to morality being subjective. And when you come to realise that morality isn’t just subjective, then maybe you need to alter your worldview.

What some people do at this point is counter with things like:

‘Well, what about all the bad that religion has caused?!’

Exactly! The fact that you know religion has been responsible for stuff that was genuinely ‘bad’ and objectively ‘wrong’ shows that you know morality isn’t just a case of ‘each to his own’. And I’m not arguing for Religion. I’m arguing for Jesus. It’s not the same thing.

William Lane Craig formulates all this with the following:

  1. If God doesn’t exist, then objective moral values don’t exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist. Therefore…
  3. God does exist.

This argument for morality – on its own – doesn’t answer every objection to Christianity. But it doesn’t try or need to. What it does show is that there quite clearly is a force behind the universe – a force that agrees with you that some things are really right and some things are really wrong.

It’s the first hint of Good News.