Atheist Comments on the Moral Law

If God did not exist, what would be the impact on morality? For the answer, let’s look to those who say that the only things that exist are natural forces:

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than our hands and feet and teeth…Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction…and any deeper meaning is illusory.” – Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse

Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends.
Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. –M. Ruse and E. Wilson, The Evolution of Ethics (1989)

Evolutionary biology tells us there are no purposeful principles in nature . . .There are no inherent moral or ethical laws . . .Human beings are marvelously complex machines.  –atheist William Provine

Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.  –Sam Harris, Free Will, p.5

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. 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. ” –Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden, page 33.

This last quote is most telling. Dawkins, a committed atheist, clearly holds that there is no evil and no good. Clear to the bottom, the universe is blind pitiless indifference. He repeated these words while speaking at an atheist rally in Washington DC. Dawkins clearly holds that there is no moral code that permeates the universe.

Yet in that same short speech in Washington, Dawkins proceeded to call religion evil. His books are replete with justifications of why he believes religion to be a bad thing. So it would seem that Dawkins gives himself away, informing us in one breath that there is no moral code, then in the next breath telling us how he has grounds to measure us by a moral code that applies to all men.

In reality, all of us have a moral code that we measure each other by. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis clearly points out that we do indeed all believe in a moral law that transcends all of us. We clearly make a distinction between the man who tries to trip me and fails and the man who succeeds to trip me by accident. If, as William Provine says, we are but machines, we should hold machines just as morally culpable as we do people. But we do not. When a power saw cuts a finger, we do not hold the saw morally responsible. Why?

Well, because there is a moral law, an ethical code that we all know is there. Men are not machines, but are morally responsible for how we act compared to the moral law that is larger than any civilization or group of civilizations on earth. Moral laws require a moral lawgiver. This we call God.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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3 Responses to Atheist Comments on the Moral Law

  1. Pingback: Weekly Apologetics Bonus Links 3/10 – 3/16 | Apologetics315

  2. Stardusty Psyche says:

    The error of the OP in claiming a self contradiction by Dawkins, and be extension atheists in general, is not observing the key term “at bottom”.
    ” at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. ” –Richard Dawkins, ”

    When we (atheists) say “at bottom” that means there is no ultimate morality, no provably true moral propositions, no objective morality.

    Morality is as the several quotes describe, and evolutionary artifact of how a social species functions for reproductive advantage.

    It is by those lights, our individual relative morality, our evolved inner sense of ought, that we atheists call the Christian and Islamic gods evil.

    There is not a shred of self contradiction in atheistic naturalism when correctly formulated and expressed. Accusations of self contradiction on naturalism regarding morality and knowledge are invariably based on strawman characterizations of naturalism, or overblown quips obtained by proof texting statements made by individual atheists.

    • humblesmith says:

      In the rest of the Dawkins quote that I gave, he is quite clear that “blind physical forces” result in a world where “you won’t find any rhyme or reason for it, nor any justice.” He is quite clear in what he means.

      The point of the moral argument for the existence of God, which I have mentioned on this blog many times, is not that atheists have no morality. Quite the opposite, in fact. All people have a sense of morality. The point is that the atheist system has no basis for it, which Dawkins makes quite clear, yet turns right around and holds a moral position.

      I am quite familiar with atheists who hold that there is no ultimate morality but there is a sense of morality based in situations as you suggest, such as transferring survival to morality. This is exactly why I quoted the authors above, including the second one, which I think covers your point. When Ruse says “ethics is illusory” and Provine says “there are no purposeful principles in nature” and Dawkins says “nor any justice” then it is quite clear what they mean and the full extent within nature that they are making their points about.

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