A dialog between Christian and Atheist about morals.
A: I do not believe God exists, and everything is explained via chemistry and physics. . . there is no need for the supernatural.
C: I’ve heard you say this.
A: You say that God is required for morality to exist in the world, yes?
C: Yes, this is true.
A: If I do good or bad to sentient beings, I have done moral good or bad, yes?
C: You are right again.
A: If I did good or bad in a world without God, would it not have the same effect on the sentient being?
C: Hypotheical horses that fall into hypothetical mudholes never actually need cleaning.
A: Stop talking about actual existence, you’re ruining my hypothetical world !
C: OK, for the sake of argument, I’ll agree. The same action in a purely materialistic world would have the same effect as a theistic one.
A: So, if we can have the same moral action in a world without God, we do not need God for morality. See? I’m right and you’re wrong.
C: Oh, my heavens.
C: You have proven no such thing, my friend.
A: But you agreed that the same effect in a world without God would have the same effect.
C: Yes, but that does not prove the effects will be moral.
A: What? You’re playing word games again. You agreed that the same action would have the same effect.
C: No, I’m using logic. Let me explain. I did indeed agree that the same action in a world without God would have the same effect as in a world with God, although I contend such a world is only hypothetical, not actual.
A: Yes, yes. See, you agreed.
C: The problem is that you are assuming what actions are moral. You said that good done to sentient beings is good. But this assumes what is good. Without an objective, external standard, there is no agreement on anything being good.
A: But everyone knows that things that benefit the survival of beings is good. Everyone agrees to this.
C: Well, not everyone. What about Kant? He only had his Categorical Imperative, which was based striclty in universal application, not in benefitting anyone or any being surviving. (see here and here. )
A: Well, true, but….
C: And what about Nietzsche? He felt that equal rights for all was poison, and that the strong should dominate the weak, and not have the survival of the weak.
A: Well, true, but…
C: What about Richard Dawkins?
A: Praise Be His Name.
C: Dawkins says ““The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
A: Well, true, but what does that have to do with morality?
C: If Kant’s Categorical Imperitive could be universally applied to kill all left-handed people, or Nietzsche’s system can justify eliminating weak people, and Dawkins can say good does not exist and the universe is blind pitiless indifference, then how can you say that everyone holds that helping people is universally good?
A: Well, uh….
C: And you believe that the world is only physics and chemistry, yes? Nothing else exists?
A: Yes, of course, I said that.
C: Is morality physics or chemistry?
A: Well, neither.
C: Isn’t that a contradiction?
A: Well, uh….
C: Another question: You say that morals are doing good to sentient beings, yes?
A: Yes, I said that.
C: If someone were to do a morally bad deed, but no sentient being were to find out about it, would it be moral?
A: uh….It would seem not.
A: I don’t know.
C: Another question: Is it not the case that your system of benefitting sentient beings looks a lot like the morals of traditional Christian theism? Why would it be good to benefit sentient beings? Why would it not be better if we all died?
A: Everyone knows it’s better to help people.
C: We just showed this to not be the case.
A: I need time to think.
C: Well, let’s review what we’ve learned so far. We know that not everyone agrees that doing things to benefit the survival of sentient beings is good, we cannot show that morals derive from a purely material world, we have examples of immoral acts that sentient beings have no awareness of, and it seems that your system of good borrows from the very system you’re trying to refute. It would seem that not only have you failed to show a grounds for your morals, but the very system you hold to, atheistic materialism, does not allow for anything other than natural, physical forces, not moral ones.
A: Do you have anything else I can read to help me with this?
C: Yes, the best place is to start with the Bible itself. But you can also try here, and here,. You can also try reading some of your own writers who hold that since God does not exist, we cannot have free will, and therefore no morals. You can read about this here.