Is there a Foundation for Moral Law?

In the book True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, editors Gilson and Weitenaurr have put together a good collection of articles by competent Christian thinkers who all respond to the logical flaws of the new atheists. In the chapter titled A Sun to See By: Christianity, Meaning, and Morality, author Samuel J. Youngs gives a clear explanation of the problems that are generated when a person denies the existence of God. Problems are generated with morality, but as Youngs shows, the issues begin with more fundamental problems with deriving any meaning at all. Meaninglesseness is not an isolated position from merely a few atheists, but is an established belief in their system. A few atheist’s positions include:

  • Current atheist rock star Richard Dawkins has told us that “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.”
  • Atheist Friedrich Nietzche wrote “Whither are we moving? . . . Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?”
  • Agnostic Bertrand Russell, after pointing out that the universe will result in a vast inevitable death, concluded that our lives can be built “only on the firm foundation of unyeilding despair.”

Youngs points out that the atheist belief has consequences. If the universe is ultimately meaningless, it impacts our daily lives. He quotes Aldous Huxley, who summarized it well: “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is . . . concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends shoud not seize political power and govern the way that they find most advantageous to themselves.”

Note that these statements and conclusions are those of the atheists themselves, and do not come from Christians. We are not putting words in their mouths, but merely quoting their conclusions.

But the problem gets worse. If there is no meaning in the universe, then science, restricted to natural causes, can only describe how the world works, but cannot provide a basis for why we ought to act a certain way. In a world removed from ultimate meaning, we can say that a particular action results in pain in another person, but cannot tell us whether this is good or bad.

In the end, the atheist / naturalist worldview denies ultimate meaning in the universe, and in doing so, removes all basis for objective morality and ethics. Atheist writer Sam Harris seems to recognize this, for in his book The Moral Landscape he makes the logical leap from a purely meaningless world to assuming a priori that hurting another human has a wrong meaning attached to it. Harris admits up front that he makes no attempt to prove this.

In the end, the atheist / naturalist position is inconsistent. On one hand it holds to a purposeless, random universe, but then admits that some things are morally meaningful. This inconsistency is because there is a moral law written on the hearts of all people. As Youngs quotes C. S. Lewis:

The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both to some Real Morality . . .

Thus the Bible is once again proven correct when it tells us in Romans 1 that all men know right from wrong, and there is an objective moral law in the universe that is written on all hearts. Theologians and philosophers call this natural law, and the best explanation is that all moral laws require a moral law giver. This we call God.



About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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6 Responses to Is there a Foundation for Moral Law?

  1. random atheist says:

    “In the end, the atheist / naturalist position is inconsistent. On one hand it holds to a purposeless, random universe, but then admits that some things are morally meaningful.”

    Why exactly can’t I believe that our existence has no (externally imposed) meaning/purpose and still have a concept of right or wrong? I don’t see the supposed inconsistency.

    • humblesmith says:

      The atheist belief, as shown in this post, is that the whole of the universe is random and purposeless. They explain that all human action, from mental states to free will, are explained by natural forces which are, by definition, random and purposeless.

      On the other hand, we all know that some things are right and wrong. These concepts require a meaningful interaction between two people. If I mix vinegar and baking soda on my kitchen counter, I get chemical reaction that has no ultimate meaning or morality attached to it. The atheists hold that we have ultimate purposelessness, but sneak in moral meaning somewhere along the way. All moral requirements have meaning.

      They do this in other ways too. They tell us the world is meaningless, yet write books that purport to communicate something meaningful. Of course, they separate, in their minds, ultimate meaning with localized meaning, saying the first is impossible and the second possible. This is inconsistent, for their is no clear way to distinguish between the two.

      • random atheist says:

        I believe that the existence of the universe is meaningless – just as anything that was not created with a purpose/meaning in mind. Although I would argue that free will is an illusion, we humans (unlike the vinegar and baking soda you mentioned) feel as if we are in control of our actions. We can create and do things that have “purpose” and “meaning”, behave “morally” or “immorally” etc. from our subjective point of view. I’m not sure if I’m aware of the inconsistency.

  2. dwwork says:

    Reblogged this on Reasons For The Hope Blog and commented:
    A post from my friend Glenn’s blog showing the inconsistency of the atheist world view.

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