The Atheists Problem of Morality

Often Atheists use morality to argue that God cannot exist. Their argument is that there is evil that exists in the world and if God existed he would stop evil from happening. A more thorough explanation of the argument can be laid out like this,

  1. God is all powerful (omnipotent). 
  2. God is all good. 
  3. If God exists he would stop evil in the world because of one and two. 
  4. there is evil the world. 
  5. Therefore, God does not exist.

Despite the fact that there are ways a theist can work around this argument, for instance though God hasn’t done premise three it does not mean he will not in the future, the argument itself cannot be postulated from an atheist perspective in the first place.

The reason is that an atheist cannot claim a standard for morality under his worldview. C.S. Lewis explained his realization of this fact before he became a Christian this way:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? – C. S. Lewis

Lewis here is explaining that his argument against God, that he is unjust, is grounded in an idea of there being such a thing as unjust. Lewis realized that his problem was that he needed God I order to say something is unjust. 

Frank Tureck likes to say that the atheist must steal this argument from God. The reason being that the atheist must steal morality from God to prove God does not exist. 

This does not mean that the atheist is inherently an immoral person, that atheists are going to naturally be evil compared to those who believe in God, or even that they don’t know right and wrong. This simply points out that atheists have no place to ground their morality.

He may argue that morality evolved, much like he believes we evolved into the beings we are now. But if this was the case morality could have evolved some other way in which a son killing his mother was moral or someone torturing babies is morally right. If morality is a result of random chance then it could have ended up other ways.

He may argue that morality follows what is better for society. But this only says what morality is not where it came from or what it is founded on. Furthermore, if one disagrees with such a ‘standard’ the atheist has no reply. Why should one look after society rather than themselves and their offspring? What defines society? Should I follow my friends morality or my parents? If a Hitler type character arrises somehow proving scientifically that their race is superior to other races what reason can the atheist have for stoping them?

Again, I am not arguing that the atheist isn’t moral or doesn’t know right and wrong only that they have no ground for it. The Christian can ground morality in the fact that we are made in Gods image and that God is the standard of morality, so in one sense the problem of evil is more of a problem for the atheist than the theist. 

This doesn’t completely dispel the problem the atheist brings up. It is still a question that a theist must answer. But the question cannot be used by atheists to prove God does not exist because the atheist needs God to use the argument.

5 thoughts on “The Atheists Problem of Morality

  1. Pingback: The Problem of Evil: The Start of an Answer (Part 1) |

  2. Pingback: Atheism and The Purpose of Life |

  3. Bearded Disciple The Problem of Evil: The Start of an Answer (Part 1)
    https://beardeddisciple.com/2016/09/13/the-atheists-problem-of-morality/
    It is false that atheists “must” (your word) borrow from god in order to say that there is evil in the world. No, murders exist, and they don’t prove that god exists. (Rather, they prove that there is no perfect being). (You have been tricked by Frank Turek and the like who make this false assertion about stealing from god).
    Murders can exist apart from God. Murders don’t show that god exists.
    Yes, I am familiar with your next move. You assert that murders entail “objective morality”. Of course, few people define “objective”, so one can’t (yet) say that your assertion is true. In the sense needed, “god-given”, it is false that murders show that there is a god-given morality.
    The interviewer can object to the interviewee if the latter claims to speak perfect French, but then fails to do so. Likewise, the atheist can object to the theist who claims there is a perfect god, but then grants that the world has much evil that conflicts with our concept of a perfect god. Likewise, the citizen can object to the person who claims there is a perfect cop, but then grants that on his/her beat, the cop allowed 1000 murders to occur. One does not need god to exist to make these objections.
    Most theists seem to think that “evil” is more than just murder, harm, and a dislike of such things. They tend to say, “it is also Really, Objectively Evil!” In my experience, no theist ever says what that means, and thus it looks like it says nothing. (If you think it means something, please say what).
    You don’t need god to have a concept of evil: it can (and often does) refer to harm/suffering, etc. You only need god to have a concept of god preferring good, or god not preferring evil. Atheists aren’t talking about those when they refer to evil. They are usually talking about harm, suffering, etc.
    Given that there is so much suffering, the concept of a being that is perfect (and who would not permit so much suffering) is improbable. Hence, evil (so much suffering) makes a perfect being improbable, just as 1000 murders (in the district s/he works in full time), makes a perfect cop improbable.
    I agree: you don’t need to know everything to know some things. That doesn’t change anything I’ve said above.
    We are not here assuming god exists. If we did assume that, then if we find a murder, we should say, it is probably for the best, given that a perfect being would only allow perfection. Likewise, if we assumed there is a perfect cop (all knowing, etc), then when that cop shot 1000 innocent looking people , we would have to conclude that it was probably for the best, justified, etc. Of course we shouldn’t do that: if we see 1000 people shot by cop X, we should then say, well I guess s/he isn’t perfect. If we see a Holocaust, then we should say, there probably isn’t a perfect being/god. To say, “but if he is perfect, he would have his reasons” is true, but no reason to not conclude that it looks like he is not perfect. Again, if you reject this, I could take anything, and say that it is perfect, and then say, well, even though it looks imperfect, it is perfect, it would have its reasons to show that my perception of it being imperfect are incorrect. I could take Hitler and say, he is Perfect! You would say, but he killed all those people. I would say (a la your logic) but if he is perfect, and we are not, we can’t expect to understand his justifiable (perfect) reasons. No, instead we would say, kill all of those people makes it more probable that he is imperfect.
    I welcome your feedback.

    • I appreciate all your thoughts on these posts.
      Here is my feedback: You bring up murder, the Holocaust, Hitler as if to say all of things are objectively bad. But where did you get this idea? If God doesn’t exist all of these things are simply furthering the evolutionary process by killing off the weak. What makes those things objectively bad?

  4. I never said they are objectively bad. I’m not even sure what you mean by that phrase. I never made any claims about morality being related to evolution. Those are your ideas, not mine. Here’s what I know: people exist, Hitler existed, Hitler caused harm, I don’t prefer harm. I say “Hitler was evil” (basically) to refer to the harm he caused, and the fact that I don’t like it. You seem to be the one who says morality is more than this. Well, show that it is. That is, show that there is something more at all, or related to morality, that then proves that god exists.

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