Can you be good without God?
This is a topic that comes up often in the new atheist’s books and atheist meetings. The obvious answer to this question is ‘yes.’ No one is arguing whether the atheist can engage in some kind of behavior. There is Hitler behavior and Mother Teresa behavior. When I hear an atheist use the words moral or ethical, I think behavior. Why is this? At an atheist meeting I went to, a woman asked the group, “How do we as atheists derive our ethics and morals?” This is a good question, but it is the wrong question. This question and the title of this paper are not the issue. We need to step back and get behind these questions. The question that should be asked is ‘can you be what without God?’ There is a huge presupposition behind this question. That presupposition is does good and evil exist. It is objective. If there is no good or evil, this question is meaningless. Then no one is good or evil. How does one define those terms? When an atheist states an act is good, she has just made a metaphysical statement. But they do not believe in metaphysics. Are the behaviors of Hitler and Mother Teresa good or evil? What in the secular (naturalism) worldview can be pointed to (reference point) to give meaning to the terms good and evil?
Could the answer be found in geometry? Are there good squares and evil triangles? No, I don’t think this is it. Maybe it can be found in the periodic table of the elements? Can we find good and evil in a pure element such as Argon? No, I can’t seem to find it there. How about in the molecules or atoms? Are there good or bad molecules or atoms? No, it is not there either. Will we find good and evil nuclear particles such as electrons and positrons? They have opposite spins and charges. One is negative and one is positive. Is negative evil and positive good? No, I can’t find it here. Can I find it in electromagnetism or gravity? No, I can’t find it there. The atheist has a real dilemma here. We can’t weigh it. We can’t measure it. For the atheist, it does not exist. All there is in an atheist worldview is material, concrete, and particular things (matter in motion). Another way the atheist tries to explain good and evil is as an epiphenomenon of complex matter. Epiphenomenon is the concept that one property plus another property equals a new property. An example: Two Hydrogen (gas) plus one Oxygen (gas) equals H2O (water) which is liquid. (Naturalism’s example: the brain is matter, the mind is an epiphenomenon) This is like saying that someday computers will become conscious with freewill. But computers are only sophisticated light switches. How many light switches does it take to become conscious with freewill? First, this is just trying to sneak a ghost in the machine through the back door. Second, all chemical reactions would become thoughts, some more primitive than others. The brain is chemical reactions. The combustible engine is chemical reactions. Cars must be thinking too. (absurd) Third, chemical reactions are only matter in motion. Good and evil are not to be found in matter in motion. Forth, epiphenomenon in this context is without a referent. Atheists do not believe in non-material reality. Fifth, everything that happens is natural. Curing cancer or making weapons of mass destruction are equivalent. They are both natural. Without a reference point, the terms good and evil are meaningless in an atheist worldview. The question asked in the title of this paper is meaningful only in a theistic worldview. The term morality is a theistic concept. The Christian reference point is that God created the laws of physics and matter/energy and called it good.
From Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart: “If one does not wish to be convinced, however, a simple “I disagree” or “I refuse” is enough to exhaust the persuasive resourced of any purely worldly ethics.” How can anyone judge any behavior if human beings were merely the mindless, spontaneous, temporary, outcome of purposeless and undirected physical processes?
From Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart: “If one does not wish to be convinced, however, a simple
“I disagree” or “I refuse” is enough to exhaust the persuasive resourced of any purely worldly ethics.”
How can anyone judge any behavior if human beings were merely the mindless, spontaneous,
temporary, outcome of purposeless and undirected physical processes?