Sunday, 25 March 2012

Can Morality Exist without a God?

 Please note, first of all, that the question I pose is not: can people who don’t believe in God be moral?

 I ask rather that if a God does not exist (irrespective of belief in him) then can we really talk about objective morality, can something be described as being right or wrong; good or evil?

First if God does exist then we define good and evil, right and wrong, in terms of what God is and what he desires of us. If something tries to go against God’s will or is opposed to his character then it is by definition bad. Whilst if something is in God’s character and desire for us then by definition, it is good. In this world view, the basis of morality is a being above us. We do not define what is good or evil, rather we try and understand and learn what is good and what is evil, from what we innately feel and our observations of the world around us.

All are insights (in different ways) from the being who imposes the morality, the one who decides what is good and what not. If there is not a God than how is a morality constructed, for something can no longer be inherently good or evil? Good and evil, right and wrong now become constructs of humanity and the society within which we dwell. The moral code itself must be built from the bottom up, rather than existing and waiting to be discovered. So in the constructed morality we think about how we’d like to be treated, how to protect others and how to ensure the best outcome for the most people there (assuming in your morality that all people are equal, a rather recent assertion).

We thus come up with statement such as it is wrong to kill another. Over time the statements are refined: except in defence of life. Thus a moral code is created. As a society we then impose these morals on those around us who don’t agree – or don’t have the ability to work out what is the best thing to do in any situation. This imposition, in fact becomes a moral imperative itself. It’s very well me not killing anyone but if I have decided it is wrong, not in the best interests of society then I must stop other people killing as well. All well and good you say.

My question is this, what if someone’s understanding of what would be best for society is ‘better’ than yours? In their eyes they must have the moral imperative to impose their morality upon you. What if there are people who are cleverer than us or morally superior (in our own eyes), surely we should follow their moral code, even if it’s different to ours? To my eyes this building up of morality must lead to a person, or collection of people who understand the dilemmas of morality better – who then have a moral obligation to impose their ideas of right and wrong upon the rest of the population. Thus as a general person in the population you would have a morality imposed from above (from those you view as morally superior beings – those you seek to emulate with your life). To you, there is once again objective morality.

The only difference seems to be that you have created/elected your god/gods!

This article was provided by Chris Knight.

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