Moral Argument

I will be making the case that objective moral values and duties do exist and that since they can only exist if God exists, then God must also exist.

In order to understand the argument, we must first understand what is meant by “objective” and “subjective” truths.  Consider two statements that one might make about a painting, that it is beautiful and that it is painted on canvas.  If we say that the painting is beautiful, we aren’t really saying anything about the painting per se but about our experience of the painting.  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and so the statement that the painting is beautiful is a statement about the beholder.  The beholder is the subject who views the painting, and so the statement of beauty is a “subjective” statement. Different subjects may come to different opinions of the painting, and any statement they make about its beauty is true to them.  When we say that the painting is on canvas, however, this is true of the object (the painting itself).  No matter what subject views the painting, the object itself will always be painted on canvas.  Since the truth of the statement, “the painting is on canvas” is true relative to the object, it is “objective”.

When we apply this type of terminology to moral issues, it works just the same.  If we say that things like murder, for example, are wrong “subjectively” then we are merely saying something about ourselves.  We are saying that we *perceive* it as wrong, but that there is nothing *inherently* wrong with it such that other people *should* perceive it the same way.  If instead we say that murder is wrong “objectively” then we are saying it is wrong no matter what subject may consider it.  If the “wrongness” of murder is objectively true, then someone would be wrong if they came to the conclusion that murder is good.  It is true of murder itself that it is wrong, not just true of us that we perceive it to be wrong.

With those preliminaries out of the way, we’ll move on to the moral argument.  If you think that there really is such a thing as “right” and “wrong” and that there is a meaningful difference between the two, then it follows that God exists.

Let’s examine why:

  • Premise One: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  • Premise Two: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  • Premise Three: Therefore, God exists.

Premise One: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.  This ties into what philosophers call the “grounding” problem.  If God does not exist, then there is nothing “out there” that can ground objective moral “rights” and “wrongs”.  Think of it this way, if a child pretends to be a construction worker as a game then he does he earn a salary?  No, of course not.  Why not?  There is no employer outside of the child’s fantasy that can “ground” his employment.  The child is only a construction worker in his own mind.  If “right and wrong” only exist in our own minds, then they are no more real than the child’s construction job.  We are just “pretending” that there is a right and wrong, but there is nothing in reality that these ideas correspond to.

If God exists, then he is an objective reality in which “right and wrong” can be grounded.  Right and wrong correspond with God, right being those things that correspond to his nature and wrong being those things that don’t.  Since God is the objective grounding for all reality, morality is objective if it is grounded in him.  Keep in mind that we are not saying that “right and wrong” are objective because God exists.  We are saying that “right and wrong” are only objective if God exists.  We aren’t assuming God’s existence, we’re saying that God is the only candidate to ground objective moral values.

If God does not exist, there is just no viable alternative candidate to be the grounds for any objective moral reality.  All of our thoughts and feelings about “right” and “wrong” are in our own heads, no more real than a child’s game of pretend.

Premise Two: Objective moral values and duties do exist.

We all know this to be true.  We have a real experience of right and wrong.  We expect others to adhere to the same code of conduct that we do, and we’re indignant when they don’t.  This belief in right and wrong is so basic for us that we can’t really escape it in practice.  Some might try to deny that right and wrong exist in order to win an argument, but in practice they can’t live that way.  Think about it, are things like rape, murder, racism, hatred, exploitation, dishonesty, and the like evil or are we just pretending that they are evil?  Do you think people should avoid behaviors dominated by these things or do you think they are really no different from love, compassion, and selflessness?  Are we really just pretending that there is a difference between saving people and murdering them?  It seems obvious that none of our experiences of right and wrong are just “made up” or pretend.  There really are evils in the world, and an evil is one type of objective moral value.  If it exists, then objective moral values exist.

Premise Three: Therefore, God exists.

This just follows logically and inescapably from the first two premises.  If objective values can only exist if God exists, and objective values exist, then it follows that God exists.

So the question for you is this, is there a real difference between right and wrong or are you just pretending that there is?  If the difference is real, then God exists.

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