The Moral Argument
In our fourth attempt to prove the existence of God, we will be looking at another age old argument known as the moral argument. This argument bases itself around the question, "Where does morality come from?" There are several possible answers to this question, but only one answer makes sense. The only logical answer to this question is that morality comes from a personal, absolute, transcendent being (God). To read about this in depth, I highly recommend C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity.
There are four possible answers to this question. It could be that morality is based on opinion. This might be the opinion of the individual, culture/society, country, or world. It could be that morality comes from nature. This might be the universe itself or driven by evolution. It could be that there simply is no such thing as good or evil, right or wrong. We simply made up the idea of morality. Finally, it could be that there is a Being who transcends humanity who is the source of morality. This doesn't necessarily mean the God of the Bible, it simply points to some sort of absolute being in authority over mankind. Let's look at the options.
Option 1: Its a matter of opinion.
This view is actually growing quite prominent in our world today. Its the attitude that claims what's right to you might be wrong to someone else and what is wrong to you might be right to someone else. But is right and wrong just a matter of opinion?
Whose opinion? If morality is based on the opinion of the individual, then if I punch you in the face and steal your cupcake, did I do something wrong? Maybe you think it was wrong, but what if I think its right? My opinion is just as valid as yours is!
Now you might run and tell other people what happened. Most of them would agree that I was wrong and I owe you. Now you are appealing to the opinion of the culture or society. It seems silly to think that right and wrong come from one person's opinion, but what about the majority opinion of a whole group of people? Well, which group? Shall we take the opinion of the Nazi's? That was a very large group of people who believed there was nothing wrong with the genocide and mistreatment of the Jews. If morality is based on the opinion of the group, then you cannot say that what Hitler did is wrong! All you can say is you don't like it.
Next, you might run to other countries and ask their opinion. The US and England stand up with you and say that the Nazi's are wrong. So is morality based on the opinion of the global majority? But what about slavery? From the 1500's to the 1800's, slavery was practiced all over the world! Americans enslaved Africans. Europeans enslaved Arabs and Africans. Africans enslaved one another. Asians enslaved one another. So, if the whole globe is practicing it and morality is based on the opinion of the globe, well then you are left with no option but to say that slavery is a good thing!
Deep down, we know that some things are right and some things are wrong no matter what the majority opinion is. Rape, slavery, and genocide are just a few examples. Morality comes from something deeper than just opinions which can change back and forth.
Option 2: Its just natural.
This option would claim that morality is something that has a natural source. The first option is that the universe itself somehow has within it moral rules. But if the universe is just matter and not actually alive like a person, then how could it have laws of right and wrong within it? Can a rock know what is right or wrong? Can a star? Can a galaxy? No and neither could the universe, being an impersonal collection of matter. The only option for this to be true is to say that the universe actually is personal and has a consciousness, but to say that is to acknowledge theism. And to acknowledge theism is proving my point ;-)
The other option is to say that morality has somehow arisen within us through evolution as a natural instinct. This instinct can be ignored like any other. There are two basic problems with this. First, it means that our human understanding of right and wrong doesn't matter. We are free to ignore morality just as we are free to ignore the urge to eat immediately when we get hungry or the urge to mate with an attractive person we see. Morality isn't important, it can be ignored.
The second problem with morality as an instinct is that morality seems to be in a class above and beyond all other instincts and therefore it would seem to not be an instinct itself. Morality is actually the thing by which we judge our other instincts, especially when they disagree with each other. When you hear a gunshot and a man cry out for help, you are conflicted. You may feel the desire to help him (herd instinct) and may also feel the desire to stay away and keep safe (self-preservation instinct). Morality, your understanding of right and wrong, is what you use to decide between the two. Morality doesn't seem to be a mere instinct, but somehow greater than an instinct as it judges our instincts.
Naturalistic views of morality lead to a right and wrong that don't matter. They also don't quite address the uniqueness and superiority of morality if it is indeed a natural instinct.
Option 3: There's no such thing as morality, we made it up!
Does this make sense? Just think about your everyday life as well as life on a grander scale.
Every day we appeal to right and wrong. That's not fair! That's my seat, I was here first. Leave him alone, he wasn't bothering anybody. You have to because you promised! How dare you eat my lunch, it had my name on it! We appeal to right and wrong all of the time! And the people around us generally agree that it exists. When the guy eats your lunch that clearly had your name on it, he doesn't say, "So what? There is no such thing as right and wrong." Instead what does he do? He either apologizes and pays you back to fix the wrong or he makes some sort of excuse that exempts him and keeps him in the right. "Oh, it had your name? I didn't see it, honest! I never would have eaten it if I had." In everyday life, it sure seems like there is a right and wrong.
On a grander scale, we appeal to morality all of the time by saying things like. . .Was it right or wrong for the US to begin the Iraq war? Hitler and the Nazis did a horrible and evil thing and we must never allow it to be repeated. Occupy Wall street because the 1% should not rule the 99%! Even on a large scale, we judge historical events, actions of nations, and current happenings by appealing to ideas of fairness and right or wrong.
If morality truly is just something we made up, then why has every culture since the beginning of history created such similar systems of morality? Think about it, if there is no real right and wrong for us to base our morality on, then why don't we see wildly different opinions of right and wrong? If you studied the laws and moral systems of the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Babylonians, etc. and compared them to laws and moral systems of today, you would be surprised by how similar they all are and not by how different they are. Moral systems may disagree on details but there has never been a total difference between two societies. Cultures may have differed on whether it is right for a man to have one wife or many, but no culture has ever allowed a man to have whatever woman he pleases whenever he wishes to claim her. There may be differences about whether or not you should be selfless toward just your family, your whole nation, or to everyone, but there is no moral system that has ever said it is good to put yourself first above all others. If there is no real right and wrong to base our laws upon, then why has every single culture come up with moral systems that agree more than they disagree?
If someone claims there is no such thing as right and wrong, you should not believe them. If you and your friends were walking down the street and saw a gray elephant, would you doubt your eyes? If you went home, turned on the news and heard more reports of elephant sightings in the same area, would you doubt the reports? If you went to school the next day and many other people claimed to have seen the elephant, though they thought it looked more brownish than gray, would you disbelieve them just because of the slight difference in what they saw? Likewise, we see morality in our every day lives, we interact with it on a larger global scale, and we all agree for the most part on what is right and wrong (with differences in some details). Why should we doubt this anymore than we doubt our eyes in seeing the elephant?
Option 4: There is a Lawgiver.
So, morality indeed exists. It cannot have come from nature because morality must have a personal and intentional source. It cannot come from opinion because right and wrong seem to govern all peoples regardless of majority opinion. Morality must have a personal, intentional, absolute source that transcends all people. What is personal, intentional, absolute and transcends all people? God.
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us. --Isaiah 33:22