At the end of part 2 of this series I briefly discussed Shelly Kagan’s view that moral laws objectively exist and are universally valid independent of human choices. This view is called moral realism. Louise Antony and Erik Wielenberg are other atheist promoters of this view. You can easily find others by googling “atheist moral realism”.
I mention this partially in case some of my readers are interested in pursuing these ideas further, but also to go on to show why it defeats a part of the moral argument for the existence of God.
William Lane Craig uses this argument in many of his debates, and one of his main premises is that “If theism is false, we do not have a sound foundation for morality”. He further states that given atheism, morality is just an illusion. I am not arguing here whether or not morality is an illusion, however I am very convinced that his statement in quotes above is false. Moral nihilism is a possibility under atheism, but it is not at all a logical necessity, and Kagan and other atheists have clearly shown that in their description of the possibility of moral laws simply existing in the universe much like the law of non-contradiction exists. To me this is a very real possibility and I haven’t heard theists properly respond to this objection to the theist premise above.
I see no logical reason to prefer the theist’s divine command theory of morality over the atheistic view of moral truths simply existing in our universe. The second belief does not require a god to exist, yet still believes objective moral truths exist. It seems to me that both of these statements are faith statements, and I have seen it argued that the second is more simplistic and runs into less dilemmas than the first. Simply given the fact that this atheistic view of morality states less than the theistic view lends credence to that claim. Both views claim that objective moral truths exist, but the theistic view also claims the existence of an invisible conscious entity. One could very properly argue that both of these views are not grounded in logical necessities, but I don’t see a reason why the god based view is any more plausible than the atheistic moral view, and in fact to me it is the other way around. One theist objection is “how is it possible these abstract laws simply exist floating outside of a mind?”, but this is really no different from the question that we could ask theists: “how is it possible that an invisible conscious mind can exist outside of space and time?” Both beliefs are transcendental to our human understanding so why is it that the theist has such a hard time with the idea of moral truths simply existing in our universe much like the laws of logic.
The strangest thing of all of this is that there is a growing number of theist philosophers (not sure of the percentage) who hold to the view that there actually are moral laws which exist outside of God. I haven’t researched this fully, but it seems that what they claim is that some moral laws are true because they are commanded by God and some simply exist within our universe apart from him. My understanding is that this view arose out of a response to the Euthyphro dilemma (which I hope to talk about in my next post), and Robert Merrihew Adams is a strong proponent of this view. Richard Swinburne is also a proponent of this view, and interestingly enough Swinburne does not see the validity in the moral argument for the existence God. My purpose here is not to appeal to authority but to have people realize that there are differing views regarding this among theists as well and it is certainly nowhere near as cut and dry as the debaters make it out to be (yes this could be applied to both sides).