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Morality Proves that God Exists
The moral argument appeals to the existence of moral laws as evidence of
Godís existence. According to this argument, there couldnít be such a thing
as morality without God; to use the words that Sartre attributed to
Dostoyevsky, ďIf there is no God, then everything is permissible.Ē That
there are moral laws, then, that not everything is impermissible, proves
that God exists.
Most facts are facts about the way that the world is. It is a fact that cats
eat mice because there are lots of animals out there, cats, and lots of them
eat mice. It is a fact that Paris is the capital of France because there
exists a city called Paris that is the capital of France. For most facts,
there are objects in the world that make them true.
Morality Consists of a Set of Commands
Moral facts arenít like that. The fact that we ought to do something about
the problem of famine isnít a fact about the way that the world is, itís a
fact about the way that the world ought to be. There is nothing out there in
the physical world that makes moral facts true. This is because moral facts
arenít descriptive, theyíre prescriptive; moral facts have the form of
Commands Imply a Commander
There are some things that canít exist unless something else exists along
with them. There canít be something that is being carried unless there is
something else that is carrying it. There canít be something that is popular
unless there are lots of people that like it. Commands are like this;
commands canít exist without something else existing that commanded them.
The moral argument seeks to exploit this fact; If moral facts are a kind a
command, the moral argument asks, then who commanded morality? To answer
this question, the moral argument suggests that we look at the importance of
Morality is Ultimately Authoritative
Morality is of over-riding importance. If someone morally ought to do
something, then this over-rules any other consideration that might come into
It might be in my best interests not to give any money to charity, but
morally I ought to, so all things considered I ought to.
It might be in my best interests to pretend that Iím too busy to see my
in-laws on Wednesday so that I can watch the game, but morally I ought not,
so all things considered I ought not.
If someone has one reason to do one thing, but morally ought to do another
thing, then all things considered they ought to do the other thing. Morality
over-rules everything. Morality has ultimate authority.
Ultimately Authoritative Commands Imply an Ultimately Authoritative
Commands, though, are only as authoritative as the person that commands
If I were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could spend more
money on the police force, then no one would have to do so. I just donít
have the authority to issue that command.
If the President were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could
spend more money on the police force, though, then that would be different,
because he does have that authority.
As morality has more authority than any human person or institution, the
moral argument suggests, morality canít have been commanded by any human
person or institution. As morality has ultimate authority, as morality
over-rules everything, morality must have been commanded by someone who has
authority over everything. The existence of morality thus points us to a
being that is greater than any of us and that rules over all creation.
What the Moral Argument Proves
If the moral argument can be defended against the various objections that
have been raised against it, then it proves the existence of an author of
morality, of a being that has authority over and that actively rules over
all creation. Together with the ontological argument, the first cause
argument, and the argument from design, this would give us proof that there
is a perfect, necessary, and eternal being that created the universe with
life in mind and has the authority to tell us how we are to run it. The
correct response to this would be to seek Godís will and to practice it.
This, according to Christianity, is what life is all about.
Objections to the Moral Argument
The moral argument takes the existence of objective moral facts to be
evidence for the existence of God. Morality consists of a set of commands,
and there must therefore be someone who issued those commands. Further,
moral considerations always outweigh non-moral considerations, and whoever
commanded morality must therefore have authority over everything else.
Moral Scepticism Argument
One response to the moral argument is the sceptical objection, the denial
that there is any such thing as morality.
It might be suggested that morality is a tool invented by the powerful and
inculcated into the masses in order to keep them in control, that there are
no real limits on what we can and cannot do, but that it is in the interests
of those who run society for us to think that there are.
However it is put, this objection holds that the theist cannot argue from
moral truths to God, because there are no moral truths from which to argue.
I have no idea what to say to people who think along these lines. I find
this view incomprehensible. I strongly suspect that most people who say
these kinds of things know better; that what they deny with their lips they
know in their hearts to be true.
Some acts are wrong; few things are more obvious than this. The existence of
morality is most obvious when we suffer by its being violated. When we are
wronged, we quickly feel the moral imbalance.
Those who cannot see this, who genuinely lack a sense of morality, are
usually taken to suffer from a psychological disorder; they are called
sociopaths. I confess that I do not know how to persuade such people that
the world is not morally void.
Evolutionary Ethics - Argument
A more comprehensible attempt to refute the moral argument suggests that a
naturalistic explanation of morality can be given by evolution theory.
Given a world in which the resources necessary to support life are scarce
and danger is all around us, people will have to compete to survive. Those
that compete well will survive and reproduce more people like them; those
that compete poorly will disappear. Groups of people that cooperate are more likely to survive and reproduce than are groups of people that do not. Natural selection, then, will favour those forms of behaviour that we call moral, because they have survival value. Over time, this process will lead to a moral instinct in human beings, a natural propensity to act well.
However, plausible this explanation may be for some elements of morality,
there are other elements of morality that cannot be explained in this way like Altruism for example.
Even the foremost advocate of evolution theory, Richard Dawkins, recognises
this. In The Selfish Gene, he writes:
ďMy own feeling is that a human society based simply on the geneís law of
universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to
live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not
stop it being true... Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a
society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a
common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try
to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.Ē [Richard
Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press (1989), p3]
What is more, even if it were possible to explain our moral instincts using
evolution, this would not explain morality so much as explain those
We tend to believe that we are subject to moral obligations, that we ought
to act in certain ways. An evolutionary explanation of those beliefs would
entirely undermine them; it would tell us why we have those beliefs but it
would give us no reason to think that they are true.
In fact, it would do the opposite; it would explain why we have those
beliefs even though there is no such thing as morality. The evolutionary
objection to the moral argument is the sceptical objection in a different
If we believe that there really are moral principles that bind us and other
people, then this appeal to evolution will not satisfy us. And behind the moral principles, there is a principle-maker, who is God. (By an unknown author)