"Nonbelievers Have No Objective Basis for Morality" vs. the Evidence

William Hawthorne recently expressed the sentiments of many Christians when he said...But you see, John, nobody is claiming that without God, humans must be immoral. The problem is whether and how the existence of objective value and moral facts can be explained in an atheistic world.

Well then, while the philosophers are debating this problem like they do the ontological argument and the brain/mind problem, life goes on doesn't it? Christian philosopher Terence Penelhum has gone on record as saying we cannot wait for the philosophers to conclude these kinds of debates before we make our religious choices. And G.E. Moore's shift probably applies here since he was more sure from the evidence that he's holding a pencil in his hand than that the arguments to the contrary are correct.

Let me briefly explain. You claim atheists and agnostics don't have an ultimate objective moral basis, and as such without it there is no logical reason prohibiting us from murdering, and raping, and cheating, and stealing at will without regard for any consequences. This would be your SPECIFIC claim, which is part of a more GENERAL claim. Your GENERAL claim is that all non-Christians are in the same boat as the atheist and agnostic with regard to not having an ultimate objective moral basis for how they should behave. If you want to make the SPECIFIC claim and not make the GENERAL claim, then I’d like to know your reasons for doing so.

Now here’s the rub. With the GENERAL claim you indict all non-Christians everywhere in all eras of human history, Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Shintoists, and Buddhists. You’re claiming that none of these potentially 50 billion people have had an objective moral basis prohibiting them from murdering, and raping, and cheating, and stealing at will without regard for any consequences, and that this applies to them as well as to us skeptics. You’re saying that none of us non-believers have had an ultimate moral basis for being good, period, and so there is no logical reason why we should refrain from commiting horrendous evils. [60 billion is Frank Tipler’s estimate of the number of Homo Sapiens since we developed, from which I merely subtracted 10 billion for Christians since the NT times, which I think is being very generous).

All I need to do while the philosophers settle this debate is to look at the evidence, just like G.E. Moore did. Look around the globe. Look to our human past. There are many people who act morally who are non-believers and they have been doing so since the dawn of time. All someone needs to learn who makes such a claim as yours is a basic history lesson. There have been great Chinese dynasties, the great rule of Mohammed, along with the Greek Golden Age, the Roman Empire, and nearly all Japanese dynasties, NONE OF WHICH HAD ANY DOMINATING INFLUENCE FROM THE CHRISTIAN FAITH to gain their ultimate objective morals from. Some of them had no influence from Christian morals at all. And if you think Christianity is waning in America, then consider the evidence that even in this secular dominated culture our government works well with diversified religious and non-religious groups of people in it, as do all European countries.

So while the philosophers debate these issues, where is the evidence that backs up your claim? Surely if non-believers have no logical reason for upholding ultimate objective morals then we should see billions of non-believing people acting logically by murdering, raping, cheating, and stealing at will with no regard for any consequences. There should be great mayhem in this world, the likes of which should send the rest of us into the asylum. But if we do just fine without this supposed ultimate objective moral standard then why do we need one at all? And if there is no evidence supporting this claim of yours then I think the claim is false no matter how long the philosophers take to decide the issue (and I personally like participating in the philosophical debate as well).

75 comments: