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 m ists 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)

I couldn't agree more SharonS. In debates, everything hinges upon what definitions you use. I personally would define morals as the "natural law inscribed on a man's heart" As the Bible dictates that God inscribed this law, no morals would exist without him. However, aethieist definitions set apart different definitions, which would provide different answers. BlackholeStorm he did NOT exist do what you want and the guy with the most toys wins... --Wally 19:47, 26 June 2007 (EDT)


Morality is stored in our mind, and then we act according to this morality. People who believe in God get a morality through Christian education, the Bible, church, etc. People who don't believe make up their own morality. In my opinion (this goes to the censors out there, who already deleted this once, when it clearly DID NOT violate any Commandments or whatever) God does NOT interfere with morality in any way (unless you believe he taught morals to people long ago and they teach it to you now). Still, morality only depends on those who use it. _Ace

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)
Everything that God supposedly tells us to do in books like Leviticus are the very same kinds of rules that the leaders of a society would come up with to best survive. "God says" not to lie with with the same sex, because you can't get children and proliferate the society unless you procreate with the opposite sex. Same goes for lying, stealing, killing, etc. Those 'morals' are made for a primitive society that has to struggle to survive and are mostly irrelevant. For example, I'm sure all here have disobeyed at least some of God's morals he set down for us. Have you ever:
  • Eaten bacon, pork, or ham? (And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.)
  • Owned or used a mule? (Do not mate different kinds of animals.)
  • Grown more than one plant in a field or garden? (Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.)
  • Worn polyester or any synthetic fabric? (Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.)
  • Shaved your sideburns or trimmed your beard? (Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.)
  • Stolen or lied?
  • Married or attended the marriage of a non-virgin? (If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.)
  • Gotten divorced and remarried? (He [Jesus] answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.")
  • Had a brother who died with no children and not married his widow? ("Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother.")
Quite obviously, these morals set for us by God are terribly outdated. This leads me to believe that anyone who answers 'no' here is a hypocrite, since they are obviously not following ALL of God's morals, or else they would be in jail for disobeying society's morals, such as not stoning women to death because they had sex before marriage. Hargrimm 23:14, 10 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)

Assume God does not exist, and that my parents, me and all the other religious folks are simply wrong. Since there is no way to prove the non-existence of God, the (by assumption, falsely) religious amongst us still have a code that they follow that they regard as "morality." Rather than being derived from God, that moral code likely was derived either from other men or possibly arose as a result of certain fundamental qualities of mankind as social beings (social "animals" I suppose). If that were the origin of morality, would the resulting rules no longer be "morality." It's a semantic game at that point, but I'd have to say that, in substance, there would still be rules of conduct that we would each choose to follow. In such a world though, I fear that the moral relativists would be right to assert that no particular morality has any primacy. --JesusSaves 03:15, 9 April 2007 (EDT)

there is no such thing as a perfect moral code. a moral code works only for the society that it was formulated for, however all moral codes across the world contain the same basic structure which must be in place for humans to live as a society. wanton killing of other members would lead to a breakdown in society as would stealing, adultery and other activities that reduce the trust of other members of the community. this is fairly solid proof that morals come from societies in general and that god has no say in the matter. these basic rules of society again come into play when animals coexist, wolf packs, tribes of chimpanzees and gorillas, schools of fish, and many other examples. if anyone wishes for a longer, more convincing argument on this subject, i recommend 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins, chapters 6 and 7. --Bolly Ottihw 21:21, 17 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)

Part of the reason for a moral code is simply to be able to function as a society. With no moral code whatsoever, our future as a race would be radically limited. Even without a biblical code to adhere to, we would have most likely developed a set of rules (do not kill each other, steal, etc) otherwise there would be none of the co-operation required for us to survive as a species. As a race, we are so inter-dependant on each other (for example, even the most powerful need people to work to provide food for them) that some basic morals are required so as we can co-exist and ensure our survival. --Fingermouse 17:28, 10 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)
I derive those rights based on a couple things. The fact that, in general, my fellow man knows that the benefit of the community is to his benefit as well. And, failing that, that my fellow man knows that if he denies those rights to someone, that those rights will be denied him.
More importantly, morals are not rights. They are responsibilities. They are the responsibility of everyone that lives in a community.
And while the Declaration of Independence, which acknowledges a creator, enumerates those rights in a general way, it also dictatates that: to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. And that it is the Constitution of the United States, which does not mention a creator, which delineates and enforces those rights. Both documents, of course, are products of the Enlightenment. You should learn about the Enlightenment. Myk 23:19, 5 April 2007 (EDT)

If you consider this hypothetical you will be committing the unforgivable sin. You will not be able to take back this mistake so for the sake of you immortal soal do not go any further.Rebiu 14:33, 6 April 2007 (EDT)


Ever heard of "treat others as you want them to treat you"? In other words don't do things that you know will hurt people. Sounds like a damn good moral code to me, and it's universal as well.

Jesus even said something like that, but you don't have to be religious to live by this rule.

Middle Man

I totally agree. Jesus said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (I'm not a Christian and I don't believe God exists, but that doesn't mean that I can find nothing of value in the Bible). This idea is part of all major religions, and is equally at home in secular thought. --Beanbag 15:51, 15 June 2007 (EDT)

Does morality exist, in the Christian, Biblical sense, that certain things are good because God tells us they are good, or does God tell us to do things because they are good? If God did not exist, would we still believe that it is wrong to take something that is not yours, or to kidnap and torture someone? I believe that the answer is a resounding "yes." I have never read the Bible. Before this year, I had never attended church. Yet somehow, I have managed to be a fairly good person, with stronger ethics and a better head on my shoulders than most of the people I have met at church. How can this be? The answer is simple. I derived my moral code from my good sense of how the world -- being what it is -- works, and what is beneficial or harmful to humans -- being what they are. The Bible and other religious works can be used as guidelines for living a good life, but I don't believe that any of them are inerrant. Humans, in general, have a degree of consciousness and intellect that allows them to make judgments on a moral statement, i.e., whether it is true and useful. Now, it's all well and good to say that we have the ability to make those kinds of judgments, but to whom, if anyone, do we owe responsibility? Well, as self-aware beings who feel emotions such as fear, happiness, sadness, and pity, and who live in communities and socities, we have an obligation both to ourselves and others. We are obligated to take care of ourselves and to live a good life, and we are obligated -- to the best of our ability -- to others to ensure that they have what is necessary to live a good life. Sorry if that was rambling an incoherent... I usually shy away from debates, so I'm not accustomed to proper debating style. :) Anyway... discuss. GrandSoviet 13:53, 29 June 2007 (EDT)