Part 2 – Is Atheism More Moral?

The New Atheists unmercifully attack the evils of religion and the character of the biblical God. Morality can exist independently of God, they loudly proclaim. According to Dawkins, “We do not need God in order to be good—or evil.”*1 The New Atheists enthusiastically denounce religion as evil while praising science as good. But this raises an awkward dilemma for the atheist: If there is no God, where do moral obligations come from in the first place? If “there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world,”*2 as Dawkins proclaims, then what does it mean to say that evil exists? Since moral values do not have physical properties such as height, width, and weight, how can we say they are real?
The awkwardness for atheism is that it is notoriously difficult to define evil without some transcendent moral standard of good. Evil has traditionally been understood as the perversion of good. Just as crookedness implies a standard of straight, evil implies a standard of good. C. S. Lewis famously said that a bent stick only makes sense in light of the concept of straight. Similarly, there can only be evil if there is first good. But if there is no God (as the New Atheists proclaim), then what is good? Even the late atheist J. L. Mackie recognized that objective morals were unlikely to arise apart from an all-powerful God.
The existence of objective moral values is a strong reason for believing in God. Consider this simple argument:
1. If objective moral values exist, God must exist.2. Objective moral values exist.3. Therefore, God must exist.
We know objective moral values exist. We don’t need to be persuaded that, for example, torturing babies for fun is wrong. All reasonable people know this. Therefore, since moral values do exist, then God must as well.
In his public debates, Christopher Hitchens regularly challenged his opponents to give a single example of a moral action that atheists cannot do. Of course, there are none. Many atheists are kind, charitable, and hardworking people. But Hitchens’s challenge misses the larger point: How can atheism itself make sense of moral obligations in the first place? If there is no God, how do we ground good and evil? Atheism is silent on this issue. Thus, ironically, one of the most common objections to God ends up being one of the best reasons to believe in him.


‘You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.  You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’

Taken from Bible (Exodus 20:3‭-‬17 )

1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2nd ed. with Preface (New York: Mariner Books, 2008), 258.2. Ibid., 35.
Taken from More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell

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