Christian apologists maintain that the existence of morality is proof for the existence of God. The moral argument maintains that moral law requires a moral law giver, and since there is an objective moral law that exists in the world, then a moral law giver exists. This we call God.
Atheists, of course, do not take this lying down. They have several responses that they feel disprove the argument. C. S. Lewis (and others, such as Normal Geisler) effectively dismantles all objections. Here are a few of Lewis’ responses to the atheists’ arguments against an objective moral law.
- Herd Instinct: atheists argue that morals develop via natural selection. Herds of animals survive due to watching out for each other; therefore this herd instinct is interpreted in humans as morality. Response:
- If we behave from instinct, the stronger instinct would always be how we behave. But we don’t always follow our strongest instinct. Instead, we make moral choices and overcome our instincts.
- We act to build, develop, and bolster our morals, not from our instincts. Universal human behavior thus refutes herd instinct.
- If instinct, then instincts would always be right, but they’re not.
- Social conventions (social contract): this argument says that morals come from agreements between people in society. Response:
- The same basic moral laws are found in every society (eg., wrong to murder innocents). Thus morals are universal and objective, not relative to individual social contracts.
- If societies were the basis of judgments, societies would always be right, but they’re not.
- Some things learned through societies are not based on social convention (laws of nature, mathematics). So even if morals were only learned from society, it would not prove that they were created by society.
- Moral law is merely a law of nature like any other natural phenomenon.
- Laws of nature are descriptive (they describe how things are), but moral law is prescriptive, implying rules for us to follow. It prescribes proper choice and action.
- No natural force can develop a sense of how things ought to be different, which is the primary function of the moral law.
- Thus the moral law is fundamentally different than any natural force.
- As atheists, we are tired of Christians telling us we’re immoral.
- This is a common misunderstanding. The moral law is not saying atheists as individuals are immoral. Quite the contrary, it says all people do believe in objective morals, which is the whole point of the moral argument. The fact that atheists are moral is proof for the moral argument.
- The argument merely says that atheists have no grounds for their morality, not that they are immoral.
- Objective morals are obviously not true, for there is so much disagreement among people. Many societies disagree on so many things, such as how many wives to allow, etc. In fact, you said earlier that societies are not always right.
- Societies do disagree on surface-level ethics, but societies agree on the fundamental morals. Societies disagree on how many wives to have, but no society believes a man can have any woman he wants.
- No one (I mean no one) truly believes that it is acceptable for me to steal their things. If you disagree, just send me your address and tell me when you will not be home.
- C. S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, gives a list of laws from most countries and times. It proves that societies do indeed have laws that are very similar.
- Look at all the immoral things in the Bible.
- If things in the Bible are wrong, then you believe that there is a universal moral law that has been violated.
- Either there is an objective moral law that makes the things in the Bible wrong, or no moral law exists and the things in the Bible are not wrong. Either way, this objection collapses.
- In actuality, the things in the Bible are morally right.
- You are an idiot.
- The atheists’ common response is to resort to ad-hominem arguments. Even if we are idiots, this has nothing to do with the moral argument.
Thus all the objections to the moral argument fail. If anything in the world is truly wrong, and not just our personal opinions, then there must be an objective moral law and a moral law giver. Denying the moral law means we have to give up the ability to say that anything in the world is truly wrong, a price that no one is truly willing to make.