You’ll see this argument play out 2 different ways. Often you’ll see Christians argue that atheists have no moral standard because they reject God. There is a flip side to this coin. In the Christian apologetics book I recently reviewed, they make this argument from the other side. Since similar moral codes exist across many different cultures and religions, those morals have to come from somewhere. Thus, the author must be God. Raising the question, do morals prove the existence of God?
Here we already see a flaw in the logic. If morals indeed come from God and are unique to the human experience, than atheists would have the same morals as everyone else. Hence this attack by Christians on atheists is designed to draw a concession, not to prove a point. However, there are a couple of major flaws in this argument. Let’s take a look at them.
God defers to the morality of man in neighborly relationships.
In the Torah God lays out his laws for mankind. These laws were often taught by Jesus during his ministry on earth. However, on one occasion Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. He taught that it was to love God with all of your heart. Then, without being prompted, Jesus offered up the second greatest commandment. This one here, and his explanation afterwards, are problematic for the argument that morals originate from God.
And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”Matthew 22:39-40
If our morality indeed comes from God, than why does Jesus tell us to look inside ourselves to to structure our relationships with our neighbors. After all, God gave us an entire law to follow. Wouldn’t that be a better source of morality than our own sense of empathy?
At this point, Christians would likely argue that this sense of empathy comes from God himself. However, unlike our general laws of different societies dealing with moral issues, empathy varies greatly from person to person. Some folks practice a code of harming nobody. Others believe in tough love. Others still are sociopaths with no ability whatsoever to empathize with people around them. This is far from a uniform code of ethics instilled by a creator.
Do morals prove the existence of God?
I believe that God created man in His image. However, he didn’t create us as clones. Our ideas of morality vary greatly from His. Hence, Hashem had to give us a law to live by to bring us into good standing with him. If He believed us to be moral creatures perfectly capable of making the right decisions, than what was the point of giving us a law in the first place? In fact, God said that the thoughts of man were only evil continuously. Moreover, in Jeremiah 31:34 God describes such a moral state from man as being something that He will create in the future.
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know Hashem,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares Hashem. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”Jeremiah 31:34
As a believer in God, I do believe that He is the source of all morality. However, our feeble attempts at morality can’t be a proof of the existence of God since they fall so far short of His ultimate morality. This is an argument you’ll never win with atheists, especially in a world where so many evil things have been perpetrated in the name of God. Moreover, the moral code taught by many religious groups today flies in the face of that taught by Hashem. Jesus himself also pointed out this contradiction.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Matthew 25:41-46
Sadly in today’s America, it is often the secular voices arguing that we need to be caring for the poor. Christian groups often counter with the advice that “if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat” to suggest that we have no obligation to care for the needy. While it is true that we shouldn’t allow folks to “game the system”, Jesus taught that we are indeed responsible for caring for those in need. Someday when Hashem writes his perfect law in our hearts and minds, we will be in a much better position to see how short our arguments of our own morality proving the existence of God truly fell.