Can you be good without God?: The Moral Argument for God March 21, 2015March 22, 2023 / Curt Parton Another excellent video from Reasonable Faith: Share this:TweetEmailPrintLike this:Like Loading... Related
10 thoughts on “Can you be good without God?: The Moral Argument for God”
Interesting. However, I am wondering how an aethiest philosopher’s theory on having a pure or ultimate source for good and\or evil, a requirement for good and\or evil (or morals) to exist? I am a Christian; hence, I partially agree with the video. My question: Why does man and a few former angels (Satan and his fallen angelic followers\demons) have a tendency to do wrong? Why would you rebel against the One who created you, knowing that He has the power to give and take life? Why is it so hard to obey? Why do we want to (and do) wrong, knowing that there are eternal consequences (Satan and his demons; those who reject Christ as the Savior)? It is interesting to know why God would create us (man and angels, including Satan), knowing that a few of us would rebel against Him, regardless of the consequences?
Hi, RWL. These are intriguing questions, no doubt. And I intend to write on some of this. They need a post all their own! But none of these questions really change the very focused point of the video IMO.
The point(s) of the questions are that the video ascertains in order for good to be present, there must be a pure or ultimate source of goodness. However, the video does not state that this is the case for evil. If it does, then what is evil’s pure source? It can’t be Satan, since Satan was good in the begining, and became evil via his rebellion. According to the video, there has to be a pure or ultimate source of evil in order for evil behavior to emanate from? If the video’s author does not apply his line of reasoning toward evil acts or behavior and a source of pure evil, then the video’s author is being disingenuios by utilizing one side of the equation to support his theory, knowing that if he uses the other side of the equation, his line of reasoning is illogical. A better line of reasoning, IMO, would be that the video should state the following: Regardless of how many good deeds, acts of kindness, or nice one’s action are, you will not be able to go to Heaven, and will spend an enternity in the Lake of Fire, if you do not accept Yeshua (Jesus) the Christ as your Lord and Savior.
RWL, I think you’re misunderstanding the nature of evil. Evil isn’t an independent, ontological reality as good is. Evil is simply the absence of good in the same way dark is the absence of light. If you remove all light, you can’t make a space any more dark. Dark doesn’t have an independent reality; it’s simply a word to describe the absence of something, in this case: light. ‘Cold’ is the same kind of word. Theoretically, you could continue adding more and more heat indefinitely. But once all heat is removed, you can’t make anything more cold. Cold simply measures the absence of heat.
This is how evil works. Evil is merely a word describing the absence of good (or God). What is not of God—and therefore is not good—is evil. Just as there are varying degrees between light and darkness, but ultimately two very different states (light and absence of light), so there are varying degrees between good (or holiness) and evil, but ultimately two opposite states of being: good and the absence of good.
So evil does not require the same kind of source as good, and this criticism of the Moral Argument for God doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. A consistent moral standard of good and evil that is universally applicable must have a real basis in something other than our personal views or a majority societal view. God determines what is good, not because of an arbitrary declaration (what is called voluntarism) or because of a reality of goodness somehow beyond God to which he is accountable. God is the standard for what is good because he is himself perfectly characterized by goodness. Evil is simply the absence of this goodness.
I will try being a little more candid. Maybe, this will help the conversation. You and the video’s author are defining Evil and Good based upon your understanding of the Bible. This is fine, and as a Christian, I agree with you two. However, this line of reasoning has no moral fiber to those who do not believe that the Bible, God, or Jesus is the source for comprehending good and evil. The video’s author mentions and attacks atheism, but do so based upon using the Bible as a source for his understanding of moral relativism. He, along with you and I, cannot do this because of his (our) support for Christianity (the author is a Christian Apologetic?). There are a few atheists who do not believe in spiritual or life after death existence. There are a few atheists who believe that good and evil are equally balanced in the universe, and that one cannot live without the other. Please remember we are only discussing atheism. We are not going to get into the hundreds, if not thousand, of religious beliefs or cultural morals and values that do not believe Jesus, Christianity, etc. If the video’s author, you, or I were not Christians, then we can attempt to make a case for the line of reasoning utilized in the video (only if we left out the part where he attempts to bring God into the equation or stating that there has to be a pure or ultimate source of good in order for good to be presence in the universe. The atheist can reply by stating that the ultimate source of good is the weather, mountains, nature, etc). . However, as I stated earlier, the opposing side will want to enquire as to what is our religious affiliation, sources of references, etc., This will eventually lead to trying to discover a universal definition good and evil without utilizing one’s religions, cultural values and norms, etc. (if we choose the path the video’s author is embarking upon).
RWL: I appreciate your comments, but I think your reasoning is faulty. There are two things this video is doing. The first and primary thing it does is present the Moral Argument for God. This isn’t an argument for the Christian God per se, but for the necessity of a god. It is a challenge to Atheism that is not dependent at all on the Bible or any other religious authority. Even if the Bible is completely false, the challenge to Atheism stands. It doesn’t rely on any particular standard of good or evil. But it points out that we already have standards for good or evil—the vast majority of Atheists included. And, whatever standard of good and evil we go by, we need to have some basis for appealing to this standard as an objective standard for not just myself but for others as well. Without some reality of a transcendent divinity, there is no basis for such an objective standard. This argument is not dependent on religion in any way. It just points out that we all appeal to objective moral standards of right and wrong that are illusory if there is no god.
Secondly, the video responds to a common challenge known as the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God (whatever god we’re positing) arbitrarily declare some things to be good, or is God subject to an external standard of good and evil that would transcend God? The video shows this to be a false dilemma if God is intrinsically good and thus declares what is good because God is good. The video does use “Love your neighbor as yourself” as an example (the only thing remotely tied to Scripture in the video), but the core proposal is not dependent on Christianity or the Bible, and could be true even if Christianity were false.
Finally, challenging a view is not the same as “attacking,” and I would suggest a little more care with the rhetoric. Someone can challenge Christianity without attacking it. And to build a bridge to those who hold another view doesn’t mean leaving one side and going all the way to the other. If an Atheist is challenging Christianity, I’m not going to think it unfair if they seek to illustrate the soundness of their view. Likewise, if a Christian is challenging Atheism, there is nothing at all wrong in demonstrating how Christianity makes more sense of a particular problem. But, having said that, I would again say that neither the primary argument nor the response to the common challenge in this video are dependent on the Bible or a biblical understanding of good and evil. It merely challenges Atheism and shows an argument for Theism (not specifically Christianity).
Last attempt. If I were an atheist or anyone who doesn’t believe in a ‘transcendent divinity’ or ‘a god’, your conclusions are completely based from someone who believes in ‘a god’. If I was an atheist (I am not including all atheist), I would not agree with your biased, religious statements: ‘without some reality of a transcendent divinity, there is no basis for such an objective standard.’ or ‘we all appeal to object moral standards of right and wrong that are illusory if there is no god.’
Most atheists do not believe in any spiritual after life or god! Hence, yours, the video author’s, or my attempt to utilize this line of reasoning is not logically sound to the atheist or anyone who does not accept a belief in a god or ‘transcendent divinity.’ Attempting to connect good deeds or acts of kindness to an ultimate source of good (i.e. a god) could have an atheist making the following statement: ‘Yes. And the ultimate of source good is nature, the weather, etc.’ The conversation or debate with an atheist ends when you, the video author, or I attempt to connect any existence of a god or ‘transcendent divinity’ as an ultimate source of one’s good deeds.
Can’t you see how bias your pespective is? Anyone can see right through what you are trying or attempting to promote? My point is that the video’s author (and now yours) point is too biased, and that anyone can see the holes in the logic?!
RWL: Okay, we’re spinning our wheels here. You’re saying that one cannot propose the existence of a god to someone who doesn’t believe in a god . . . because they don’t believe in a god? To propose an idea that you hold, but someone else does not, is not biased (whether done by Christians, Atheists, or anyone else), it’s simple discourse. It’s the only way we can have any kind of discussion. Are you suggesting we must assume the validity of Atheism to talk with Atheists?! What you’re proposing is circular reasoning and it is logically fallacious.
Contrary to your comment, the video is not discussing the source of good; it’s discussing the basis for an objective standard of good. Maybe your misunderstanding of this is causing part of your confusion. Now an Atheist could claim that an objective standard of moral good comes from nature or the weather, but such a claim could not be substantiated or established through reason and logic. (Unless you’d like to attempt making such an argument for them?) You’re throwing around a lot of rhetoric but you’re not sticking to any one point and you’re not making any logical argument or criticisms of the actual argument of the video. Here, put very simply, is the primary argument from the video:
A. An objective moral standard of right and wrong is impossible without a transcendent, divine source, i.e. God.
B. Humans universally appeal to an objective standard of right and wrong.
C. Therefore, there must be a God.
This is the Moral Argument for God, and it didn’t originate with this video, btw. And, one last time, to say that one cannot propose the existence of God to someone who doesn’t already believe in God is not only logically fallacious, it’s nonsensical and makes discourse between people of differing beliefs impossible.
So, having said all that, where are the “holes in the logic” and the bias in this argument?
Thanks for sharing the video, Curt, and for the discussion. I’ll be sharing the video with my small group that’s discussing Colson’s “The Faith.”
Thanks, Cale. Sounds like a good group!
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