Perhaps one of the most inescapable arguments for God’s existence is the experience of objective moral values.
Our argument can be formed as follows:
- If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
- Objective moral values do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
Now, the argument is not in order to be good, one must believe in God. All humans are moral beings created in the image of God and are capable of doing good. In fact, I often find I have non believing friends who “out good” myself and some of my believing friends. Rather, the argument is only in a worldview which includes God can things be objectively and definitely good or evil.
It is crucial to define what is an objective moral value. An objective moral value is a moral value which is valid and binding regardless of whether or not anyone believes it to be so. For example, if Nazi Germany had won World War II, converted everyone to the strictest form of Nazism, and executed or brainwashed all those who resisted, the Holocaust would still be a moral atrocity. The moral value is not dependent upon the person’s preference (as in subjective morality), but, rather, is equally binding for all human beings.
This argument is a deductive argument meaning if the premises are true (premises being points 1 and 2), then the conclusion (3) follows logically and inescapably. In this argument, the logic is sound. If the premises are true, the conclusion follows. The question to be asked is: Are the premises true?
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
Atheists and theists typically agree to premise 1. If God exists, then humanity has an absolute standard off of which to base any and all objective moral values. Without this standard, then what basis remains for determining objective right and wrong? Humans cannot make an objective standard, because one person’s standard of morality would be no more objective or binding than any other person’s. All that could be said is that certain actions are good or evil relative to the person or society.
Without God, humanity is at a loss to find a sufficient standard off of which to make certain moral values binding for all mankind.
Premise 2: Objective moral values do exist.
Just as our sensory experience lets us know there is an external world, our moral experience apprehends a realm of objective moral values. Some actions, at least, are not just social taboo. That is to say, some actions are more than just going against the grain of social norms or defying our survival instincts. Actions like racism, rape, child abuse, etc. are not just subjectively wrong, they are objectively wrong and moral abominations.
Every time you feel cheated, lied to, taken advantage of, or wronged in any way, you understand the perpetrators were truly at fault to have performed such actions. They did not just perform social nuisances, they acted in morally detestable ways. In this sense, you have affirmed the existence of objective moral values.
Without these values, how can any society objectively condemn another? Why were the international courts correct in condemning Nazis for their war crimes against other people? Because the international courts operated under the assumption of objective morality. Without this assumption, the courts could not justly charge and condemn the Nazis of their crimes. In fact, without objective moral values, many of the assumptions taken for granted vanish. Good and evil become preference rather than fact, but as stated before, this flies in the face of human experience because humanity does apprehend there do exist objectively wrong ways to act.
From these two premises, the conclusion follows logically: God exists.
With God, what humanity has is an absolute standard off of which to base any and all objective moral values which are valid and binding for mankind regardless of special conditions or circumstances. Actions like rape, abuse, etc. are truly intrinsically wrong, but only in the worldview which deposits God can these acts be rightly condemned as objectively evil. Without God, such actions are merely relative and not wrong in and of themselves.
A point which ought also to be mentioned in conjunction with this argument is the Euthyphro dilemma from Plato’s, “Republic” which asks if things are good because God wills it (to make things obligatorily good dependent on the fact it comes from God) or does God will something because it is good (to place goodness above God and make Him subservient to it)? This dilemma presents a false dichotomy. Rather, what is good is an extension of God’s moral nature. The Good is synonymous with God Himself. Goodness is neither above or below God. It is a part of Him.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17