Is Morality possible without God


#61

Morality is the quality of human acts that render them good or evil. And the morality of the act is usually judged with respect to our ultimate end or goal in life. Any act that helps us attain our ultimate end is good; and any act that hinders us from attaining our ultimate end is evil.

Every person, whether he or she realizes it or not, has an ultimate end – the goal to which all goals are directed. For Catholics the ultimate end is God Himself. So, for a Catholic, any act that helps him or her attain union with God is good; any act that hinders him or her from union with God is evil. Usually the system of morality and code of conduct that a Catholic goes by is formulated by human reason aided by Divine Revelation.

What about a person who does not believe in God? A person who does not believe in God also has an ultimate end, for example, natural happiness. Therefore, any act that helps him or her attain happiness is good; any act that hinders him or her from attaining happiness is evil. His or her system or morality and code of conduct will be dictated by human reason unaided by Divine Revelation.

Is it possible to have morality without reference to God? Yes. In fact, there have been people who devised their system of morality without God. Confucius is one example. However, there is a serious risk involved when a person formulates a system of morality based solely on reason unaided by Divine Revelation. For example, the person could make a mistake in figuring out in what his or her ultimate end consists. The person might think that ultimate happiness consists in wealth, or power, or pleasure instead of God. If this person makes a mistake on this fundamental question, he or she can end up with a code of conduct that – from the Catholic’s standpoint – is very immoral.


#62

It depends on what you mean by morality.

For example, you have desires and you want to live, and you live among other beings who have desires and want to live, and so you negotiate your place in the world among other beings. One can argue, purely on practical terms that the most reasonable thing to do in that situation is to order your intentions or actions so as to not impede the desires or will of other people, or to act in a way that upsets the least amount of people possible; otherwise things can go seriously wrong for you.

One could call this a code of ethics. I look at it as survival ethics. Even a psychopath can live by those rules. Even animals avoid going against the tribe. Most people behave in this fashion. But the idea of being reasonable in this case is relative to what you actually want. Without an objective law that states that we ought to behave in a particular way, morality becomes a shifting sand, and in fact there really is no right or wrong action, and thus no such thing as moral truth. That your behavior may upset another human being has no relevance to what one ought to do or ought not to do. Playing it safe and following the rules doesn’t always favor what people want or ensure longevity or quality of life, and what some people might think of as a bad person can actually have successes in life at other peoples expense; if succeeding means anything at all since we are all going to cease to exist according to materialism. And what sense does it make to call something that is essentially made up of blind physical processes immoral? Have you ever heard of an evil atom?

For the christian, there really is a right way to treat people. There really is such a thing as being fair or unfair. There really is such a thing as being selfish. There really is such a thing as dignity and righteousness. There really is such a thing as a good person and a bad person. And we ought to act for what is right, even if it means sacrificing our own lives, or even going without the kind of lives we may have wanted. The christian does what is good because he thinks it really is good in actual reality.

But for an atheist, there really cannot be any such thing logically speaking. If an Atheist sacrifices his existence so that some other mortal being can live 20 more years, that might be pleasant for the survivor, but any sense that he has in truth done something good, or is a good person for doing so, is delusional and it is a fantasy if there is no God.

So my answer is, morality is not possible ontologically speaking if there is no God. But one can have a practical code of living depending on what they want from life. Even the Italian mafia have a code.


#63

Morality and indeed ethics, in this world at least, seem to require both God and cognition/volition/understanding. Without a cognitive grasp of these, it seems it is then a case of being in a state of amorality - much like the animals, birds and insects.


#64

Morality doesn’t matter if there’s no God; it’s pretty much irrelevant.


#65

absolutely :slight_smile:


#66

Thumbs up.

Yes, as you say it is also an error to think that God is merely a dictator of rules and regulation. I think that a lot of people make this mistake, even Christians. God’s very nature is love, and since God is the very foundation, cause and sustainer, of our being, it follows that love is the objective standard by which our actions and intentions are defined.


#67

Except that it isn’t so. When you compare cultures, the farther you go back in history the more similar they seem to be, especially with regard to moral values (and w.r.t. to supernatural beliefs too, but that’s not our immediate topic in this thread). And even now, in the modern age, where tradtional culture has largely been discarded as the basis for shaping society and has been replaced by “politics”, it is still obvious that there remains a lot of similarity between what different peoples consider moral. The “usual” sins (murder, theft, adultery, etc.) are considered immoral acts in all societies to this day. Ambiguity arises only with respect to matters that didn’t exist prior to the modern age. Are contraceptives immoral or not? The question did not exist until 60 or so years ago.

And insofar as specific individuals (as opposed to countries and cultures) disagree about what’s moral, of course this is the case, but that doesn’t prove that morality is relative, which in the context of our current discussion means that it is arbitrary. Religion explains such differences by saying that different individuals are at different “ethical” levels. In other words, a saint and a sinner aren’t just different. The saint is truly a higher being. The sinner can become a saint by undergoing the gradual transformation that God works in a man’s soul when that man cultivates his bond with God through the practice of religion. The sinner thus slowly ascends by improving his ethical fibre (among other things). This isn’t a change in his “opinion” or “attitude”. It is an elevation to a higher plane. An individual’s ethical quality is something that varies along an ordinal scale with sainthood at the top.

Which brings me to the answer to @defendermigs’ OP: No. A true morality isn’t possible without God, for in the absence of God (i.e. an absolute Judge) no act has any intrinsic moral value. Of course men can deny God mentally and still act on their God-given moral intuition; many atheists do this, and are passably good people in the ethical sense. What they don’t realize is that in the absence of the practice of religion, morality will gradually but surely decay, if not noticeably in themselves then surely in the world as a whole.


#68

And you expect us to agree with that?

Your position is self-defeating. If you say yes, then we can totally agree on something. If you say no, then you are expecting that no one will accept your statement that we never totally agree on anything, because there is something that we totally agree on.


#69

Nope :grinning:

I’m not expecting anyone to accept it, but I’m expecting that no matter what one proposes, someone will disagree. Even when it comes to the preceding sentence.

The more intriguing question is…why? Why will someone always disagree. If we’re all rational, intelligent people, then one would think that there would be a great deal on which we could all agree. But we don’t.

In a way, your disagreement proves my point.


#70

Personally, I would say no. We are creatures, subject to the creator and his intended design. Morality therefore lies in obeying the will of the creator because his will is built into the creation. Bucking against his will defines immorality. If however, there is no creator, that creation is nothing more than random chance and life is nothing more than organisms trying to propagate their DNA, then morality is a very arbitrary construct. In all actuality the atheist has to borrow from the world view of the theist to assume that there can even be a right or wrong. Ethical decisions in the atheist world view basically boil down to a few threads 1) social construct - essentially the rule of the mob to determine right and wrong; 2) utilitarianism - doing the most good for the most people. Both of these have weaknesses. If morality is shaped by mob rule, then even unethical laws can be ethical (such as slavery if society deems it acceptable, etc.). The atheist would buck against this idea normally. If you go with utilitarianism, well, then who decides first what is good, and how do you determine whether that good benefits the most people? Neither idea is a consistent basis for atheistic ethics.


#71

Hahaha. Yeah, we can AGREE to disagree, right? :slight_smile:


#72

If only it were that simple. Unfortunately a great many people feel compelled to believe that “my way is the right way” and your way leads straight to hell. And I’m not just talking about religion here. Politics, immigration, gun control, there are a great many things where people can’t simply just agree to disagree, or even to compromise for that matter.

You would think that rational people could learn to disagree, but perhaps we’re not as rational as we think we are.


#73

For Far Eastern major language, morality word combines the words of the way and virtue since the beginning. Daily meditations of the followers of Lao Tzu and Confucius was to communicate directly with Supreme God, but they regarded their belief or the way as philosophy to avoid collide with Buddhists.

For Western language, morality under the influence of Greek earliest philosophy which the virtues had no reference to Trinity God until Roman Catholics defined Faith was the virtue.

Since God does not require many virtues, so without faith, still have the foundation of virtues for incomplete morality. Atheist learnt this to defend their culture of antichrist here and antiGod there.


#74

I think not, and those atheists who disagree with me are fooling themselves. Without a supreme being to whom we are answerable, morality consists, ultimately, of “what is best for me.” Such a system has room in it for love, compassion, and altruism, but its purely subjective basis dooms it as providing a pattern of how one ought to think and feel and behave. Atheists get around this by hijacking unconscious assumptions that there IS some objective right in this universe from belief in a moral God.

Or, as the late and beloved atheist/agnostic Terry Pratchett put it in Hogfather:

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point —”
MY POINT EXACTLY.”

I miss Terry Pratchett. :frowning:


#75

OK, I totally AGREE with you. No more argument. Are you happy now?

If so, then there is something we can totally agree on, correct?

You see, that’s the same problem with the old skeptical statement, “We can’t be sure of anything.” It’s best answered by “Are you sure of that?” It is self-defeating. That’s why I will not say that, if I were you.

Intellectual agreement even on moral matters is possible. St. Thomas, for example, was often in agreement with St. Augustine. However, it is also true that there are people who will reject something that they already know to be true - sometimes just to save their face, sometimes to escape the responsibility that comes with accepting the truth. No amount of argument will convince these people because their problem is not intellectual. It is moral. There is no cure to it but prayer.

You are right in your observation that a lot of people cannot agree, but not because they are irrational (some are very intelligent), but because they are sinners. A drunkard will justify his drinking, and a gambler will rationalize his gambling. We need to pray for them because they both know that what they are doing is wrong, but they just want to justify their behavior. Even sinners know in their hearts that there is a moral code that they should go by no matter how much they try to justify the opposite. Their arguments and denial do not mean that there is no moral standard. It means that the moral standard is either being rejected or ignored.


#76

I think you’ve missed the point. It’s not that nobody will ever agree on anything. Indeed you and I may agree on a great number of things. But you’ll never find even one thing that everyone agrees on. For example, I’m a solipsist. I hold that at least one thing can be known to be true…I am. And yet there are those who have disagreed with me on this point, and question whether one can know even that. So even on the most fundamental of things, people will disagree.

So when it comes to morality, you’ll never get everyone to agree on what’s moral and what’s not. People will always disagree. And this is true whether there’s a God or not. Even if there is an absolute moral standard, we’ll never agree on what it is. Thus we’re forced to live by a moral code of our own making.

People disagree because they’re irrational. There may be contributing factors as to why they behave irrationally. But if they were indeed rational, then they would see the error in such behavior and change it accordingly. To know what’s wrong, and to do it anyway, is irrational.


#77

No morality is possible without the existence of God. He is the standard of all morality.

A good clip on this is the following. Very well done.


#78

Well, anyone who doubts his own existence better doubt the existence of his doubts.

Now that’s making me uncomfortable. Am I irrational because I disagree with you?

That’s not how I would say it. I’d say, “To know what’s wrong, and to do it anyway, is immoral.” But I will not debate with you on this. First, because we are going out of topic now. Second, it could be a matter of definitions.

Anyway, I will be busy again and will not be able to continue on this thread. So, thank you for a pleasant conversation and see you again in another thread perhaps?


#79

100% Agreed.

Although I would argue that a lot of cultures around the world would be considered immoral compared to our standards because they don’t have that Judeochristian influence.


#80

Claiming that god is your reference for objective morality is no different to atheists than claiming the biggest strongest bully in the room is dictating your morality for you.
Again, to create a moral system, you have to first subjectively reference your goal of what you measure good and bad against for moral responses to a moral assessment. Just like subjectively picking to play the game chess. It is not objectively bad to lose your queen, but it’s pretty bad in the overall game strategy, but it is objectively bad to get your king checkmated.
Atheists don’t have a universal reference point of morality though since being an atheist has nothing to do with the moral question or world views. However, as a secular humanist, we do select human well-being as the reference point for determining what is good or bad in reference to our moral decisions when we assess moral issues. BTW you can still be spiritual and be a secular humanist. You can also be religious and be a secular humanist as well.

We can demonstrate that humans are actually part of reality. Can you demonstrate your deity as being part of reality at all? We can also take the next step and demonstrate why human well-being is good for the goal of human flurishment. Can you demonstrate why anyone should care why your deity’s position on any moral issue should be the reason for any moral issue for humans after you demonstrate your deity exists at all?


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