We hear time and time again from the religious community that without God, we would not have an objective source of morality. Let’s break this down and address it systematically.
“Without God.” What does this mean? Does it mean a literally absent God, a purposely withdrawn God or an intentional ignorance of God? For all intents and purposes, the first two options are empirically the same. The third option is interesting because in that case, we need to determine who is in control.
Imagine finding yourself face to face with an angry dog. For simplicity, you have three options. You could try your best to defend yourself when the dog attacks, you could try your best to run faster than the dog or you could ignore the dog, pretending it isn’t there. The pretend option leads us to an interesting scenario. While touching a hot stove, pretending it isn’t hot isn’t going to stop you from being burned. But pretending that an angry dog isn’t there might just save you. If the dog sees no threat, it most likely won’t attack.
How is God analogous to a dog? Well if God is real, then ignoring God isn’t going to stop Him from going about His business because being omnipotent, we have no control. But if you swap the agenticity of God over to the imagination of a person, then ignoring God would cause Him to dissipate and become harmless.
What do we observe in the real world? We observe randomness. We observe a universe that is mathematically without influence. Some cancer patients have successful cancer treatments, some sadly don’t. The same goes for religious cancer patients who have people praying prayers of faith. With a universe that operates as though there is no influential agent, we can make the assumption that there is no God influencing it since a God is not needed.
So without God means a literal absence of a God. The next part of the statement is, “we would not have”. This is a definite logical condition. It claims “If X then Y,” not, “If X then probably Y.”
The last part of the statement is, “an objective source of morality.” We need to define what an objective source of morality is. Is it a set of rules? Is it conditional on geographic location? Morality in the US is considerably different than morality in Syria. In New Zealand it is moral for a 16 year old to have sex but that would be immoral in the United States. The Holy Bible lists a set of rules commonly known as the Ten Commandments and Christians claim that this is the basis of morality, but the Holy Qur’an has a completely different set of rules upon which Islam bases its morality.
Many religions all claim absolute morality even though they all differ, so as the human race, we need to collectively agree on a universal set of morals. If you take what is universally agreed upon by the majority of a diverse humanity and we remove the philosophical constructs of love, peace, etc, leaving us with one objective rule that protects ourselves and everyone around us, we are left with the platinum rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Now of course this only works when everyone harmoniously follows the rule so we won’t get into silly debates on self harming or what not.
So let’s reconstruct the original statement in our defined form. “If God does not exist, then we would not treat others the way they want to be treated.” Think about that for a moment. Religion claims that if God does not exist, then we would not treat others the way they want to be treated. Look around and see what’s going on in this world. How many people are being treated the way they want to be treated?