Proofs for God's Existence: The Moral Argument

     by Josh Hickok

“Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him.  You might as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.”- C.S. Lewis[1]


     When I was younger, my brother and I would constantly bicker and fight over silly insignificant details.  If you had any siblings, I'm sure you went through the same thing.  One of you would end up with a fat lip or a broken toy, and immediately you sought justice for what had happened to you.  “It isn’t fair mom”, or “He hit me first” are an example of what you usually say when the dust has settled.  But have you ever stopped to think of what justice really means?  How about punishment?  It would seem that for punishment to be fair there must have been an actual rule broken.  A judge has never (God willing) looked at a defendant and said he is guilty for not doing anything.  That seems preposterous to us, and for good reason.  Punishment is meant to correct an action that was undeserved and unlawful.  Not many people would disagree with me that morality exists- the only ones that would say so only do until the gun is pointed at their head, or their children are being abducted.  They do not live with consistency, so we have a right to question these people’s convictions.  But how could someone make the jump from morality to God?  It’s an easy process that starts with proving the universality of morality.

     Most university classrooms now teach that morals change and evolve with the societies and cultures that contain them.  We will call this conventional morality, or moral relativity.  But is this view really sound?  I think not, and for a few good reasons.  If there was no such thing as a simple moral standard that supported or disapproved actions, what could you expect?  Downright chaos.  A standard is crucial for us to make any sort of judgment of human actions.  Just think about it for a minute- if there existed somewhere in the world a place where eating your own children for fun is prevalent, on what grounds could we condemn them if morality changes from culture to culture?  Absolutely none!  But we do every day, even going to war with other countries over issues of genocide, human rights and basic freedoms.  I don’t think it’s even necessary to argue this specific, though.  Let’s back up to where we were looking at morality being relative again.  The basis must come from one of these sources:

1) Myself


2) Outside myself.

In response:

1) Morality cannot come from myself, since then it would be simply arbitrary and not morality at all.

2) Morality, then, must come from an outside source. 

     C.S. Lewis has written about the “outside sources” quite meticulously.  We will look through what he has said about the source of our moral instincts.

     Why morality is not evolved herd instinct.  Lewis does not deny that we have something called a herd instinct, but this is not the point.  Herd instinct is what gets you to food, or a mate, or makes you find shelter to sleep at night.  Ironically, all one has to do is ask the simple question “Is it better to act for the herd than to not?”  This will force the person to say either yes or no.  If they really believe that morality is determined by herd instinct, then they have to answer with a resounding yes.  But this forces them into a corner- judging herd instinct by asking “ought” or “ought not” is placing the origins of morality outside our herd instinct.  How can something be judged by what it is trying to set up as truth?  This is circular reasoning, and equal to saying that we can know that our cousin is not a liar because he said he wasn’t.

     Why the moral law is not a social construct.  Morality cannot be something invented by society, because it begs the question.  Why would a group of people invent something like this?  Some, like Friedrich Nietzsche, would claim that morality is imposed on the weak by the powerful ruling class.  This is to keep them in control.  But why would these rulers do this?  Is power a good, desirable thing?  If it is, then morality is again presupposed.  Not only this, but the same basic moral principles are found in nearly every culture, regardless of background.  And like all false views of morality, this one makes it impossible to reasonably judge someone else’s actions, much less an entire society.

Why Morality Necessitates an Open Universe View

     How does this tie in to the position that morality hints at a Creator?  It’s a multi-step argument that, I believe, everyone can and should understand.  The general form is this:

1)      Morality is only possible in a universe where beings can be responsible for their actions

2)      Free-will is the cause of personal responsibility

3)      Free-will is not possible in a closed[2], naturalistic universe

4)      But there is personal responsibility and hence, morality

5)      The universe is not a closed, naturalistic universe

6)      Therefore, the universe is an open system subject to something other than physical causes

In defense of the argument

1)      I think we covered this in the beginning.  It simply is nonsensical to require judgment for something one had no control over.

2)      Following from 1 is the undeniable conclusion that free will is the cause of personal responsibility.  This one should also go unchallenged.  Even the famous skeptic Paul Kurtz wrote about enhancing “freedom and dignity…”[3]

3)      This point is a little more disputed and takes a little more consideration.  If all that exists is matter, then how could something like freedom result from pure material?  Free-will seems to require dissociation, or perhaps even better, a metaphysical hierarchy that puts the natural in a lower state than the supernatural.  I’ll try to sketch it out a bit here-

The naturalist view-


     As you can see, it is a very simple diagram.  Morality becomes merely an effect of the ultimate cause of everything. However, the theistic universe is a bit different and in my own opinion, more plausible-


     Free will is the key here, but one may argue that free will has its own underlying cause- a theistic or personal creator.  We need not worry too much about the others, at least with anti-theists.  Punishment demands accountability.  With no free will, there is no accountability and hence, no justifiable punishment.  Morality is superfluous in any naturalist system.  It’s as simple as that.

4) This point no one really objects to.  Who is going to say that no one has ever done something wrong?  I don’t think I need to add anything to this. 

5 and 6 are both conclusions, really.  Perhaps I can put the argument in even simpler terms;

Either the universe is open, or there is no such thing as morality.

There is such a thing as morality,

Therefore the universe is open.

     The question I have for this argument's opponent is, what part will you object to?  Drop me a line if you feel confident I’ve erred or misrepresented someone.

[1] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity.  San Francisco Zondervan:  Publishing House, 2001 p. 6

[2] “Closed” universe means that everything is physical, and nothing happens that is not caused by natural forces.  This, of course, entails the conclusion that the universe is an interlocking whole, and everything that happens is determined to happen by purely physical causes, thus eliminating free-will.

[3] Kurtz, Paul.  The Humanist Manifesto II.

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