I am providing a link to the website of Ravi Zacharias and an essay called The New Atheism and Morality. Among the arguments espoused by atheists is one that suggests ‘morality is possible quite apart from the reality of God.’ In other words, atheists claim that their morality, moral as it no doubt is, does not require a transcendent God in order for it to be moral or for they themselves to be, indeed, moral people. They can, it is argued, still be people of mercy, grace, peace and a whole host of other virtues and neither belief in God nor the reality of God is necessary for such virtues to be present in their lives. So the author, JM Njoroge, writes:
A good example of a claim against religion that does not sit well with the facts of reality is issued in the form of a challenge to the believer to “name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.” (1) We are expected to agree that no such action or statement exists and then conclude that morality does not depend on God.
The problem is that the conclusion does not follow from the premise. The fact that a non-believer can utter moral statements and even act morally does not logically lead to the conclusion that morality does not depend on God, much less that God does not exist. This challenge misunderstands the believer’s position on the relationship between morality and God.
The believer’s claim is that the world owes its existence to a moral God. All human beings are moral agents created in God’s image and are expected to recognize right from wrong because they all reflect God’s moral character. The fact that human beings are the kinds of creatures that can recognize the moral imperatives that are part of the very fabric of the universe argues strongly against naturalism.
He points out, next, the logical conclusion to this way of thinking:
Unlike the laws of nature, which even inanimate objects obey, moral imperatives appeal to our will and invite us to make real decisions on real moral issues. The only other parallel experience we have of dos and don’ts comes from our minds. Thus when the atheist rejects God while insisting on the validity of morality, he is merely rejecting the cause while clinging to the effect.
Without God, morality is reduced to whatever mode of behavior human beings happen to favor either because of their genetic makeup or conventional accords. There is no action that is objectively right or wrong. Rape, hate, murder and other such acts are only wrong because they have been deemed to be so in the course of human evolution.
Had human evolution taken a different course, these acts might well have been the valued elements of our moral code. Even Nazi morality would be right had the Nazis succeeded in their quest for world dominance. Unless the world contains behavioral guidelines that transcend human decisions and genetic determinism, there is no reason why anyone should object to such conclusions.
The point is that the human will is not sufficient enough to make such moral decisions. The fact that ‘religious people fail’ and ‘unreligious people succeed’ at morality is not, then, a valid argument against God. If one were to examine the evidence, what conclusion would he come to? Would we think, given this climate, that human beings are in fact capable of making moral choices apart from God? We have trouble making moral choices in concert with God! The point here is not that Christians fail or that atheists succeed. The real point is: Where did that which determines our success or failure come from in the first place? Mere naturalism? Mere ‘I-gotta-good-feeling-about-thisism?’ The human heart? Pshaw!
There has to be someone or something guiding and determining our code of conduct otherwise we are all rogues. In and of ourselves, we end up with unguided anarchy and we have seen where that ends up in this world, in the wrong hands, and what happens to those who stand in the way.
This is a short essay, but worth the 5 minutes or so required to read it.
For further reading on this subject of the New Atheism, see the following essays published in the March/April 2008 issue of Modern Reformation. (Some links may require a subscription to MR or the MR website.)