Why Be Good?
One of the arguments for the existence of God is that without God, there can be no objective moral standards. Rights are whatever we decide they are, good and bad are whatever we decide they are.
But we all do acknowledge objective standards of morality – some things are good, and some things are bad, no matter what anyone, or any particular society says about it.
Therefore these standards do exist. Therefore God must exist.
I don’t think this is a particularly compelling argument.
It is entirely possible, even if there were no God, that it could be useful from an evolutionary point of view for us to believe in objective moral standards, even though, of course, no such standards would or could actually exist.
But the non-existence of objective ethical standards is nonetheless problematic for atheists who wish to claim that atheism is as intrinsically moral as the teachings of Jesus (more, as they see it, because based in reality) and leads to just as ethical and caring a society.
Atheists are fond of pointing out the horror stories (again, as they see it – careful examination of the facts often tells a different story) in Christian history. The Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition, for example.
But it is worth keeping in mind that the Soviet Union killed off in an average day approximately the same number of people as the Spanish Inqusition sent back to secular authorities to be executed in its entire 300 year history .
We take the equality of women, kindness to children, fairness in dealing with strangers, etc, for granted, precisely because we have 2000 years of Christian history behind us. These values are so normative for us that we assume they are shared by everyone.
But history shows this is not the case.
Jeff Jacoby on Town Hall has more:
It may seem obvious to us today that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. Would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai? It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. “We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal,’’ wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that “it is not anger but reason’’ that justifies the murder of handicapped children.
Reason is not enough. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. What makes us think we’re right?
The God who created us created us to be good. Atheists may believe — and spend a small fortune advertising — that we can all be “good without God.’’ History tells a very different story.