Debate:If God does not exist, can anything be morally wrong?

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Aside from God, might makes right. God dictates morality. --BenjaminS 16:18, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

It really depends how you define morality. If morality is what is right and wrong, as set down by God, then of course no morals exists if God does not exist. However, many people would give morality a broader definition. For example, most atheists would say they attempt to hold to some set of morals which they believe to be right. ~ SharonS Talk! 16:30, 4 April 2007 (EDT)


Man is still answerable to his fellow man. A morality dictated by God is replaced by a morality dictated by the community. Myk 16:29, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

In other words majority rules... might makes right. --BenjaminS 16:44, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
Ummm.... no? Might makes right is a little over simplistic. Look back in to the origins of religion and you will see that the moral code was based on how best for a community to survive. Fragile communities fragment when people steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, etc. God telling people what is right and wrong... that is might makes right. Morality not from God is people deciding what is best not just for themselves, but for the community. Myk 16:59, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
Your view that "God telling people what is right and wrong... is might makes right" reveals a very limited view of God and implies that His motives are those that a selfish man would have were he to be given infinite power. Who would be better qualified to inform creatures who are limited in understanding and moral character than the infinite God who created them? Surely His wisdom is far superior to ours and although He is indeed mighter than we shall ever be, His credentials for informing us of what is right and wrong flow not primarily from His infinite power but rather from His infinite knowledge and perfect moral purity. We would do well to listen to Him. God (I am talking about the God of the Bible here, not the god of one's own understanding or definition) is by definition Holy, Right and Good. These things cannot be defined or have meaning apart from the Creator of the universe. --HSDad 17:41, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

In the absence of God's morality, what incentive does a man have to do anything other than that which gratifies himself? Why should anyone care about the good of the community?--BenjaminS 17:11, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

Examine the golden rule and you will see some form of it in almost every religion and philosophy from Aboriginal beliefs to Zoroastrianism. Life is not necessarily defined by personal hedonism. --Mtur 17:25, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
It doesn't take much intellect to realize that that which benefits the community benefits the members of that community. Including your straw man hedonist. Myk 17:33, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

I don't believe in god but I still believe everyone should be a good person no matter what. Just because god doesn't exist doesn't mean anything. You shoudl treat others how you want to be treated. What goes around comes around. AtheistKathryn 20:46, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

But how can you know what "good" is without God? Anything else is just something made by a flawed human being. A perfect moral code can only be created by God. ~ SharonS Talk! 20:49, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
If you wish to take that stance, one could argue then how could man be imperfect? One of the biggest criticisms of Plato's forms was that imperfect cannot be derived from true perfection (an absolutely perfect being cannot create imperfection, it's not in their nature), thus if God is truly perfect, then humans must be perfect, yet Christians argue that is not the case. ColinRtalk 04:59, 5 April 2007 (EDT)

I do not recognize the existence of god. I do however have morals, thanks to Aesop, the legitimate father of morals. --TrueGrit 23:17, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

Questioning the Question

If God does not exist, then all material in the bible, all theology and all material written by an army of believers is of highly dubious origin. At the very least it is 'informed speculation'; at its worst it is dangerous nonsense. That could (but does not have to) potentially mean that all 'morality' derived from a fear of hell, damnation and/or a vengeful god is invalid, and therefore irrelevant or even subversive. Many of our 'Rights and wrongs' are derived from this belief system, and our morality is the code which encapsulates the 'rights' (as opposed to the 'wrongs'). The 10 Commandments for example are an encoding of such values, which appear to rely for their validity and upon their enforcement upon a belief in an aggressive and vindictive deity.

However, there are alternatives. Humanists also derive moral codes without the need for a supporting deity. Transhumanists who believe that after a technological singularity has occured, human beings will transcend the form that we currently inhabit, are intensely concerned with ethical issues. God is nowhere in these debates; they are all about how we have a responsibility to the universe, the earth and our fellow creatures, both now and in the future. This is not about being 'right' or 'wrong', it is pragmatism and it is the responsible use of intellect and the application of prudence and common sense.

This means that morality based purely on a belief in God is highly fragile, for if someone chooses NOT to believe in God, their moral code fractures and they can basically behave with impunity. In medieval times where theological & scientific understanding of the world was in the hands of a few, and the horizons of the common people were limited, and the idea of God was an understandable extrapolation of the patriarchal system of family and local government, a god-based morality might have worked extremely well.However, a simple belief in a universal God in a world where we are citizens of a global community with different sets of core beliefs, different religions and therefore different moral codes, does not work at all, and, it can be argued leads to the very situation we find ourselves in today, with disillusioned sections of society who do not accept conventional moral and ethical norms of behaviour.

--CatWatcher 17:44, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

Common Good

So then as your own deity you can transform morality to fit your own worldview? You also seem to say there is no right or wrong to base common sense on. Then as a Humanist you can create your own morality to whatever you feel will benefit your universe. I would question where you feel responsibility toward something greater, such as the universe, while at the same time rejecting something else greater than yourself that is acknowledged by your fellow creatures.--Roopilots6 19:38, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

No man or woman is an island. There is society, and there is consensus. Whatever makes society work, and perform its functions will be an effective moral code. Different societies will do it differently. It is not an individual choice. Look at it this way. In England we drive on the left; all other European countries drive on the right. This is purely convention and is completely arbitrary, but we do it to allow traffic to flow smoothly. It is also convention that we do not murder, pillage and rape. However, there are (and have been) occasions where moral codes have allowed these. In war we are allowed to murder people. Pillaging was a common event in historic times: the Romans, Greeks, the Vikings all engaged in it. Rape was a feature of life in medieval England; at one time the Lord of the Manor had the right to sleep with any new bride. All of these people had gods, and their behaviour was condoned by their theology. The fact is that some theologies (such as that of the Aztec's) required murder. Abraham was quite willing to kill his son, because he expected his god to require a sacrifice.

Morality = the set of conventions which allow a particular society to operate, that's all. --CatWatcher 20:04, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

Of course?

Anyone can come up with a moral code. The problem is that since its source is only human then it will subject to anyone wanting to change it. Inalienable rights will no longer exist since they merely come from people who will give or take them away whenever it's politically beneficial to whomever is in charge at the time. That would not be good for morale, would it? But of course, the question begins with the word if. If you are a godless individual then morality will be something you can change whenever it will benefit your behavior. A person who acknowledges God will not be able to play free and loose with morality set in stone. So then, who would you tend to trust your children with?--Roopilots6 19:20, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

I think I would trust my children with people who I know and have grown to trust, regardless of whence came their morals. Myk 19:44, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
Anyone can come up with a moral code, and many do. However, society invents moral codes for its effective functioning and continued survival. It is not in our collective interest to have murder, mayhem and thievery rife. We need at least a consensus of behaviour from most people to have society function effectively, and in the main the moral code is devised to do just that. However, there are some biblical moral codes, such as 'an eye for an eye', which we have dispensed with because they are now deemed inappropriate. To kill a member of someone's family because one of their family has killed one of yours may have worked in biblical times, but not in today's society, where families are nuclear, and the code would end up destroying two families. Even the bible recognised this, when it was superseded by 'turn the other cheek'. Moral codes need to change according to circumstance and need. If there is an absolute code, backed up by a deity, things can never change, because there is always some sacred text which is held inalienable. A hard & fast code tied to a supreme deity also runs the risk of subversive re-interpretation of the code by deviants with vested interests (witness the re-interpretations of the Q'uran by radical scholars). We have seen how this can happen, and should not think that it is impossible to happen in the West. The existence of the US is testament to the fact that there were radically different interpretations of biblical moral codes in the 16th & 17th Centuries. In reality whatever moral code exists, and whatever its basis it will always be coloured with political expediency.--CatWatcher 19:46, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
So you say that you would do away with having inalienable rights? Just because people have their own liberal interpretations of moral codes negates their usefullness? --Roopilots6 20:16, 4 April 2007 (EDT)
You keep on bringing up inalienable rights? What do inalienable rights have to do with God? One can believe in the inalienable rights of freedom of expression and self determination without acknowledging God. Myk 20:37, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

"Inalienable" (or "unalienable") is a term in English common law. Property rights were alienable (could be sold) or inalienable (could only be inherited). Inalienable here simply means something which is taken to be fundamental, and therefore unquestionable. The concept of inalienable rights was criticized by Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke as groundlesss. claiming that rights arise from the actions of government, or evolve from tradition, and that neither of these can provide anything inalienable. In the piece above I was pointing out that some people hold their sacred texts to be unalienable, that is they cannot be questioned. This is a very bad thing, especially where sacred texts are in conflict with one another, as it denies discussion and negotiation. --CatWatcher 04:34, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
It can be argued that those who accept Christianity are far more dangerous in straying from their morals than others, since any sin (aside from blasphemy) is forgivable. This, in effect, grants Christians a free pass to do whatever as long as they ask for forgiveness. I know the common responses, that repentance means making an effort not to commit such sins again, that Christians should want to live like Jesus and try not to sin, etc., but the fact remains that Christianity gives its followers the right to do almost anything they please. ColinRtalk 04:57, 5 April 2007 (EDT)

But not only Christians - any religion can be guilty of this. Look at the way that radical Islam has subverted the Q'uran to its own ends. It is the presupposition that there is a text 'revealed by God' which is the problem. By the very nature of language and human development, words change meaning over time, we constantly interpret and re-interpret. What words mean to one generation, may mean something completely different to another. The word 'gay' used to mean, light, jolly and carefree. 'Groggy' was a description of a course-grained material (grossgrain), not a state of semiconsciousness. If you suppose that a deity has revealed to you a text for all time, then because words change in meaning, it is clear that each generation will, by necessity, be forced into creating their own meanings from that text. This is where the danger lies. Let us assume that the 'revealed' word is the word of God. It is absolutly clear that not all re-interpreters of the code do, or even in principle ever could, agree; many are in conflict with each other, and some appear to be in direct contravention of the fundamental tenets of their faith. How can an ordinary person possibly be expected to decide what is right and what is wrong in this maelstrom? The fact is that we don't; moral codes are informed by, but not dictated by, religious beliefs. Moral codes are basically human social constructions, and are shared understandings of what is required to live peaceably, and ensure the continued survivial of our genes and memes into the next generation. A believer might claim that their 'god' has inspired them to do this, and I can't argue with that, as it is their belief. However, that does not explain why atheists, pagans and other non-monotheists would choose to live their lives according to the same shared moral codes as them. --CatWatcher 05:24, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
Christianity does not give its followers the right to do almost anything they please. Nor do Christians have a free pass to do whatever. Anyone that hides behind a label they think will protect them from harm are mistaken. Chances are that they have abandoned all morality their religion requires of them. It seems that everyone here lives in some sort of Christianized society here. So that when the God word is invoked only the Christians are thought of. The Inalienable rights of morality that are common to all such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness don't need to come from God. You can let those things be given or taken at the pleasure of your local autocratic official by invoking the common good. Since there is no such thing as a moral right or wrong. When people are unable to discriminate between good or evil they will not recognise any moral wrong. A Humanist doesn't recognize any higher authority and may change the morality at their pleasure, whatever that may be. From the 1st Humanist Manifesto to the Amsterdam Declaration. The Christian can't do this since their original texts don't change. If you're a Humanist, what moral rights do you have that are guaranteed permanent? Or considered to be inalienable that won't be changed with a subsequent manifesto?--Roopilots6 12:27, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
For the love of all that is good and decent, now you're saying a humanist can't recognize good and evil? These are not concepts that require a God! You are slandering large portions of the world population.
  • Humanists can change their morals at a whim
  • Humanists can't recognize good and evil
It's a shame your concept of God-given morals doesn't include one about civil behavior. Mine does, and my morals don't come from God. Funny how that works out. Myk 12:34, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
Right, but it's alright when Christianity is being slandered here. I don't object to different viewpoints, even incorrect ones, without accusations of slander. I'm being as civil as anyone else on this. If you are a Humanist, you still haven't answered my question. It's an honest question? But if you won't then yes it would funny indeed.--Roopilots6 16:02, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
Well, no, it's not all right for Christianity to be slandered. You have made too points which are deeply offensive to people and aren't true. That's slander and it is uncivil. As for your question, please define "moral rights" and I'll give it a swing. Myk 16:17, 5 April 2007 (EDT)
Human rights are basically moral rights. But how do you claim to derive these rights from? I claim inalienable moral rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness being endowed upon me by my Creator. Freedom of speech and religion as well as the right to defend oneself would be moral and human individual rights. Are yours from God or an institution? If from God then they can't be taken away by others. If from an institution such as a government then they can be taken away in an instant. What is the guarantor of your rights that are human and moral? If God doesn't exist then moral rights and wrongs can be considered relative to the whim of those in authority over others. So that an individuals morality of right and wrong will be rendered meaningless. Savvy?--Roopilots6 19:06, 5 April 2007 (EDT)