If you are an atheist who has ever argued for objective morality, you have inevitably been asked the question, “Without God, how can you have morality?” This is a common question, and it is one that is pervasive from believers toward the non-believers. It is an important question to answer, both for the sake of establishing a sound moral theory without religion attached to it, and for the sake of preventing grand-scale physical conflict such as a holy war. In order to begin, I will establish that morality must be deducible from reality otherwise it is meaningless. Then, I will explain why this is actually a good thing from the religious perspective. Finally, I will touch on how this recognition will help stop massive violent conflict.
I have already established that morality can be deduced from reality with my article The Moral Framework. Now, I will explain why this must be the only rational case for morality in order for it to have any meaning. The religious will proclaim that morality comes from God, and they will cite the Ten Commandments and other proclamations within the Bible as evidence. I ask you this, do you know the difference between right and wrong? How do you know? Let’s take murder as an example. We can all agree that murder is wrong, yet, how do we know? Do we know it is wrong because God says so, or do we know because, either we have some inherent sense that we wouldn’t want to be killed so killing must be bad, or because we can prove it through a moral framework? If right and wrong are dependent upon dictates from God, then right and wrong are completely arbitrary and meaningless dependent solely upon God’s whim. God could just as easily proclaim that murdering people over seven feet tall is a good thing as they reach too close to heaven. I think we can all agree that this would be ridiculous. However, if morality is determined objectively, as in deduced from reality, then God’s proclamation that murder is wrong is an observation of reality, it is a declaration of what can be understood, not a dictate to be accepted mandatorily. This frees morality from dependence upon religion and places it openly in the realm of objective reality, and even the religious are better for it.
The Bible states that we are created in God’s image. If this is the case, and we as individual humans have the capacity to reason and deduce a sound moral theory from reality, then God has this ability as well. When God declares that murder is wrong, he must be deducing this fact from observed reality and sharing his conclusions with us so we know right and wrong before we are able to deduce it rationally ourselves. Now that we are able to reason for ourselves and prove that murder is wrong from our own observations or reality, does this not bring us closer to God? I ask this question to believers in order to better understand them. I am not a believer, so I can only speculate. It is my hope that I am correct and recognizing our capacity to reason and acting upon it does in fact bring people closer to God.
Lastly, I want to explain how recognizing objective universal morality can end some of the worst and longest lasting conflicts of all time. In fact, it can end all war. Holy War is waged largely on the principle, “My God is greater than yours and he wills me to kill you.” The Crusades were about his, and the violence that comes out of the Middle East from Muslims today is also based upon this idea. Muslims fight each other over this idea, and they have the same God. Governments go to war with each other, using their citizens as cannon fodder for the same faulty reasoning. These are all representations of belief in irrational morality. “Because God wills it,” or “Because the government voted on it,” are not sound moral frameworks upon which to base action, let alone a series of actions that results in the deaths of thousands, if not millions of people. When we free ourselves from irrational belief systems, we are able to start our journey of human flourishing.
If we can recognize that there is an objective moral framework, one that deduces morality from observed reality, we can end violent conflict on a mass scale. No longer will countless human lives be thrown away at the altar of irrational belief systems. Why people believe in irrational belief systems is a discussion for another time, however, I will leave you with one final idea. Anarchy, sweet though it is, cannot prevent irrational belief systems from forming. However, it can rid us of the coercive and destructive belief systems we are currently subject to, and for that, I am forever enthralled. It is my hope, dear reader, that you will join me in my captivation.