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Does Morality Come From God?

October 28, 2008

A lot of theists assert that morality comes directly from a god and without his divine law in our hearts we would be incredibly immoral and kill, rape, and pillage the world to sunder. Atheists will often counter with the fact that there are many atheists who are moral and behave very well without the stewardship of a god. (theists: in this instance I’m referring specifically to Christians, I’m in the Midwest of the U.S.A. and I’ve never had a Hindu threaten my life, after I deconvert all the Christers I’ll take aim elsewhere..) Then theists will break out this:

Romans 2:15

“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”

What that means in layman terms is that God has written his law in every man’s heart and you know what’s right or wrong no matter what. In other words, God’s sense of morality has been inserted into you. Now, logically, if God’s morality is the same as your own then you should agree 100% with what God says or does. AmIright?

1 Samuel 15:1-3

1Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

2Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

3Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Deuteronomy 32:21-25

21They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

22For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

23I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

24They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

25The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.

Hosea 13:16

16Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Now to me, infanticide is an immoral action. A baby is not at fault for what their parents do. I can’t think of any act that would justify genocide but right there in the bible, the supposed word of a god, it’s not only there but it’s being commanded to be done! Infanticide is clearly an action God would deem moral. I do not. I’m sure a lot of people who are reading this right now agree with me (Hi all two of you!).

If you do not agree with every action of your god then your morality does not come from that god. But how can that be? It clearly states in Romans that your morality is his. Either the bible is right or wrong. Either the bible is the unerring word of God or not. How could God get half right and half wrong? If the bible is wrong then the entire foundation upon which this god stands is nonexistent and that god is not real.

Question: What’s your take on this? Do I make sense? Am I crazy? Do kiwis taste like several fruit at once?!

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17 Comments
  1. October 28, 2008 9:57 am

    I’ve met one Christian who countered this argument by claiming that, since God is defined as good, all of these acts must be good. But they are bad if we were to engage in them. Unbelievable.

  2. October 28, 2008 10:16 am

    I honestly don’t know how people like that manage to breathe let alone work out how to navigate reality.

  3. notreallyalice permalink
    October 28, 2008 1:19 pm

    I think an important argument to make is that humans are moral because we are human and it benefits us to be that way. This might get tricky if you have to bring evolution into it since some theists reject evolution and that’s another argument. But a demonstration may work, much like the one you outlined in your post. Another example is to ask: “how do you know slavery is wrong?” They don’t know it is wrong from the Bible because the Bible teaches compliance with slavery. They know it is wrong because…? And then you better know your Bible verses about God commanding the Israelites to take slaves, or Paul commanding slaves to be obedient. This is a demonstration that morality is like language: humans evolved for it.

    Also, my husband says kiwi fruits look like monkey balls.

  4. October 28, 2008 1:28 pm

    Alice, though not really Alice, I agree with you completely. I decided that for this post I would only argue against morality found in the bible and avoid the conundrum that theists would face with evolution. When that word pops up, some prefer to cover their ears and “lalalalalala”. I wanted to avoid that and just maybe poke a little hole of reason into the Christian psyche.

    I’ve never seen monkey balls but I do like me some kiwi now and again.

  5. atheistproject permalink
    October 28, 2008 4:31 pm

    This is another (very entertaining) example of how the world as described by Christians doesn’t jive with itself. And I believe it was Aristotle who said: “If it don’t jive with itself, then it just plain ain’t!” (More formally: Not both A and not-A.)

  6. October 29, 2008 12:46 pm

    What that means in layman terms is that God has written his law in every man’s heart and you know what’s right or wrong no matter what.

    Of course, this doesn’t account for the fact that right and wrong vary from person to person, town to town and country to country. Nor does it account for the fact that parents have to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. It also fails to account for psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.

    Now to me, infanticide is an immoral action. A baby is not at fault for what their parents do. I can’t think of any act that would justify genocide but right there in the bible, the supposed word of a god, it’s not only there but it’s being commanded to be done!

    Right. And following Christian logic, everyone in the world should be a psychopath. And yet…

    Answer: You are making perfect sense. I don’t know you well enough to know if you’re crazy. I’ve never eaten a kiwi and now I never will because, from this day forward, I will imagine monkey balls every time I look at one.

  7. October 29, 2008 6:20 pm

    Allow me to cut the Gordian Knot here and answer the title:

    No.

  8. October 29, 2008 6:23 pm

    But what’s the fun in being so blunt?

  9. October 29, 2008 7:37 pm

    I’m an atheist,so I’m biased, but I never thought religion was logical. When I was a kid, I asked questions at church and was told to listen, but not question. Then, I read the bible and the contradictions are endless. Needless to say I don’t talk religion with my Catholic friends.
    I say if people need religion, let them have it as long as they keep it to themselves. I do a good job keeping track of my own morals.
    AndI like kiwi too.

  10. October 29, 2008 7:44 pm

    Okay, well… you got me there.

    The “Does morality come from god” question just gets under my skin. If there’s one thing from the theist bag of tricks that annoys me more than “The bible is true because the bible says it’s true,” it’s “Without this moldy old book, there would be no morality. Dogs and cats living together; mass hysteria.”
    On top of it, people often tangle their politics up in there and somehow the ones who think chaos will ensue without God’s Rules are the ones who cry about government regulation.
    It makes me nearly incoherent.

  11. October 30, 2008 8:25 pm

    Sisyphus,

    I don’t think you are crazy…just wrong.

    Actually, you interpreted Romans 2:15 incorrectly. (I find it amusing when atheists try to interpret the Bible, because the Bible itself says that you cannot know the mind of God if you do not have his Spirit, 1 Cor. 2:14-16.)

    Romans 2:15, in context, means that it is fair for God to judge non-believers for their evil because he has written his law on their hearts, meaning that their consciences can attest to what is right and wrong in their behavior. Paul (the author) is not implying that the testimony of human conscience is always perfect, because people have conflicting thoughts (verse 15) about their moral behavior, sometimes excusing themselves from wrongdoing. The very existence of this testimony is sufficient to render people accountable to God. Paul says that people’s consciences are distorted by sin elsewhere (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10; 10:29; 1 Timothy 4:2; and Titus 1:15).

    As for your other passages, you fail also to read in context. These times when God has commanded war and destruction come when a people/nation has defiled God’s name and has harassed his people. The words that are most quoted in the Bible are “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” This is quoted in Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, and Nahum 1:3. God has a long wick, so to speak. It is as if God is saying, “My default mode is love, mercy, compassion, etc. But when I need to, I get angry. Very angry at sin.” It takes a lot to piss off God and for those particular circumstances that you mentioned, those nations had cross the line — so God gave them their due.

    Finally, I find it interesting that atheists (like you) fail to mention the verses I did above or verses like Romans 2:4, which says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” What about, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

    Sisyphus, also answer this question. If God doesn’t exist, why do you spend so much time seeking to disprove him, mock Christians, or try to convince everyone that we are wrong? (No one’s been able to answer this for me…it’s a sincere question that I hope you consider.) You’ll ask, “James, why do you spend so much time defending God, Christianity, etc.” The answer is that I do not want people to die without knowing God and spend an eternity apart from him. If you are right, Sisyphus, we will all be okay after death. If I’m right, well, then, you are in trouble my friend.

    I want conversation, not a bashing contest. I hope you respond well.

    peace,
    james

  12. October 31, 2008 10:20 am

    So I can’t understand the Bible unless I’m already a Christian? How is that intelligently designed?

    “These times when God has commanded war and destruction come when a people/nation has defiled God’s name and has harassed his people.”

    This is a point you and I never see eye to eye on. I will NEVER condone infanticide. There is never a justification for killing innocent children who don’t even understand what is going on. Kill even the donkeys? They have pagan donkeys now? The sheep will lead the women astray to pagan gods? I don’t care how many times your book says your god is compassionate, it doesn’t make it true. A god who loses his temper is not a god.

    The reason I spend so much time trying to disprove gods and trying to convince Christians they are wrong is because people are dying over this fiction. People are being tortured and murdered over gods. Science would be so much further ahead and so many lives could be saved if it wasn’t for backwards dogma fighting light and reason. People trash the environment because “Jesus is coming soon, why do I care? This world is dying anyway” They murder each other over texts that claim the Earth is flat and what two consenting adults do in their own home is YOUR business. YOu say love and then you kick, spit on, and drag behind a truck a young man for who he loves. You say peace and then you blow up a market full of civilians.

    Any religion that professes these two things should be done away with.
    * “We are the only way to salvation”
    * Any that fights the forward movement of science and reason

    And just to clarify: I sound upset because I am upset. People are being killed all over the planet over what god they prefer, you take away that god and they have considerably less to commit murder over. I’m not calling for the death of Christians, Jews, or Muslims. I’m calling for them to grow up and realize that mommy and daddy have been the ones giving you presents all along.

  13. October 31, 2008 11:48 am

    “A god who loses his temper is not a god.”

    I’d have thought that went with the territory. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single god that didn’t lose their temper. Yahweh, Zeus, Odin, et al were pretty much known for it. The people in those stories were constantly walking on eggshells, just like theists today.

  14. Thomas Byrd permalink
    November 4, 2008 11:01 am

    Extremists in all religions will continue to cause problems. There are reasonable people who can choose to believe in God without it being an issue. Extremist Athiests can cause issues too. The truth is the world would be a lot better place if people could live and let live. I have never tried to share my faith in God/Jesus with anyone that hasn’t asked me about it and even then if they don’t want to listen or ask me to forget about it I will. Don’t classify all religion as a problem.

  15. November 26, 2008 5:44 am

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t read through all the passages, I was too disgusted. I remember studying this stuff in grade school, junior high and high school (in Israel, we have mandatory theology classes for 11 years), and feeling horrible disdain. Theology teachers have continuously explained that such laws are no longer a part of the Israeli moral worldview, but this is still an intimate part of Judaism, and one that cannot be denied. Even when I was a believing Jew, I abhorred the immoral segments of the bible and the awful edicts and decrees in it. (having studied the Torah in detail, I can say that most of it is appallingly boring trivia, but such disgusting decrees, alongside honorable laws, dot the bible)

    I couldn’t agree more: Jewish theology has taught me that human beings aren’t born to do good, and God’s intention was to teach us what he viewed as good. This forces the logical conclusion that without the bible, men and women make up what’s good for them, and that perforce means that what people view as good or bad doesn’t rely on the bible or on God, and there’s no logical construct that demands “evil deeds” (whatever that means) to be part of an apostate’s worldview.

  16. godlesspaladin permalink
    December 16, 2008 5:17 pm

    I came across something last night that might be relevant. If the bible truly is the source of morals, only the immoral will be sickened by the ending of this short video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3JL3uMUd74

  17. February 25, 2009 5:09 pm

    I believe atheism is the root of all evil. In modern view a general consensus amongst the “norm” believe the state of mankind has progressed from a more barbaric period of mans struggle upon the planet to something “more civilized”. Even in recent events witnessed by television in America, a modern invention of the 20th century, many witnessed the growth of American prejudice with racial conflicts. many laws were enacted for civil liberties and equal rights and man progresses.

    Many would say man was akin to simple caveman description of long ago. no books or any learned material for one to hone and strengthen the mind, these works of literature and knowledge a product of 15th century mechanics and printing presses. thus, prior to such a time, a human being was simple compared to one which studies the world around them by collected works and observations of others in order to form a “worldly view”. however, even in today’s world of achievements, there are many tribes still living as any so called “pre-civilized” society. as a matter of fact, only in early summer of 2008 a hidden tribe of the Brazilian rain forest was uncovered to shock and amazement of researchers who strongly believed all was uncovered by mid 20th century. still many stones are left unturned.Thus, one may easily see the behavior of simple man as he would have existed thousands of years ago with simplicity of existence. Truly, one may make an informed judgment of the state of mans behavior towards each other as a function of living together without any tools of modern living in comparison to mans finest cities and all the amenities it offers for civilization.

    Now let us ask a simple question to ourselves. given the choice, where would you live, in a city with with allthe advancements of mans struggle to harness nature;plumbing/electricity/true health care/etc etc or living in the jungle as one with nature as exhibited by some tribes to this day. it is evident most human beings choose modern forms of living. thus, there seems to be a consensus amognst mankind. it is good to strive for a level of civilization that grows in knowledge and awareness for mankind’s mastery of the elements around him in order to provide added comfort and security to their lives as opposed to the lives lived before them in a somewhat “darker time”.

    Now let us ask ourselves the question of spirituality and its effect upon a human population and its relevance. It should be readily apparent that the so called civilized nations that have endured thru the centuries were those with a common form of worship amongst their members in order to provide discipline-love and understanding for a human race that not only wants to find answers about nature in order to tame her- but also mans existence in why we are even alive and where are we going after death. these questions have been a part of our mind in all lands and peoples as clearly exhibited by observation of every tribe of people on this planet. all people on this planet have some form of worship and respect to god. let the definition of god be so general that it incorporates all peoples beliefs on this planet, i give no details except to honor all peoples dignity and respect of their own desire to honor something they personally believe might have given them life, might greet them in their own death, and comfort and regulate the after life for our forefathers and our time after death of a physical existence. Thus, it is apparent, the vast majority of the planet will not deny the possibility of such an existence of a greater power that has given life to all things.

    Now let us ask ourselves amongst all the peoples of the earth, why is there a code of conduct and ethics between mankind. the so called golden rule described in so many ways- do unto others as you would have done to you. there is no question in all the lands of the earth, society has setup some form of government between people in order for advancement peace and stability. i believe i do not have to debate this in detail nor describe it- it is a no brainier. WE CALL THIS LAWS. you may say laws of government over the people have nothing to do with any spirituality whatsoever and may exists in a purely atheistic society, however, i have never witnessed a society ever in history of mankind that fully abolished the laws of god(in whatever forms they have deduced from their own messengers) for a population to be only atheistic. there is not one nation on this earth that is purely atheistic-why- it would have killed itself off. what exists today is the byproduct of many thousand years of mans struggle upon the planet and a direct reflection of war and peace between one another.

    Let us look at western civilizations best friend, the dog, i cannot say this for eastern peoples, as they have dogs as meals. However, so much can be learned from mans belief that his so called best friend is a dog, a descendant of the wolf. why not the wolf itself? can you walk right up to a wolf today, i don’t think so, and in many years of breeding from the most gentile wolf in ancient times, man has breed out much of the angry disposition of some breeds. More importantly for this discussion, who is your best friend, is it not something that listens and obeys your every wish(usually but with a treat), is there for you when you need them(where else can they go as you house them), is a trusted friend and companion when you are alone. I would say if man treated any human being as they do their canine friend, they would have a great possibility of a best friend in human form. feed and house them for free and treat them with respect, i believe a human being may achieve many best friends and not just one. Thus, who is to say, is the dog truly mans best friend by many years of taming the wolf to a dog, or is it the fact you feed and take care of this animal, i wonder if you would not feed your dog for two days and leave your infant child in the room with them, would your mind be at ease, or would you say that is unfair, and a dog must be fed. here comes my argument of man and spirituality. if man was not fed for a day or two, what will man do. can man be trusted when the pressure is on- when the struggle is hardest, can man be trusted as a friend or a civilized person to behave accordingly between one another in order for the entire tribe/group/society of common peoples survive TOGETHER. THIS IS THE HEART OF THE QUESTION. what will man do when the struggle of life is so enormous, who will resort to honor and dignity in a civilized fashion, or savagery like the wolf.

    Thus, life is life for all man. nature will surely treat all without prejudice. the struggle of life will impact all peoples of the earth with equal proportions. Thus, when put to the test of life, what quality of man is beneficial not only to himself, but to the collective will of his own family, his tribe, his society. All man is equal upon this earth, America has shown this clearly as all races of people may perform the same tasks, what man thinks they cannot do what another man can do. However, i speak not of deeds and tasks anyone may strive for like a simple dog doing tricks, i speak of evil and bad amongst man. who will “break down” in the so called internal struggle man has to be civil to one another- the atheist or the devout follower of an afterlife.

    this is a very easy test, take away the possessions and stability of a man, and watch what he does. The truly devout person with a strong belief in an afterlife and god will be humble and continue to struggle in a humble fashion for stability, the atheists on the other hand will live to their mottos may the strong survive-dog eat dog-its nature and natural-etc etc- simple behavior by simple animals are the atheists. in today’s prison system is a vast pool of knowledge that clearly shows man without boundary’s, is truly a man who will infringe upon your boundary. over and over again many will try to tread on others in a violent or non caring fashion, we find them and imprison them, sooner or later and only be their own judgments and an enlightenment by others, man will “hit rock bottom”, and be born again into a new light. I have personally witnessed by friends and example by media so many human beings who lived a life for themselves in an atheistic fashion, it is only the salvation of a higher power in which one puts their trust and faith into they can be saved as a human being with a belief they are a child of a higher god. I have never witnessed a born again convict find the words of the atheists – there is no growth in it, only confusion and a limited peak may be reached as one believes they are simply the the descendant of an animal ape. those of faith understand the possibility of being here by a far greater entity, thus, the growth in mind and spirit in unlimited, as our belief in a higher god is one of infinity in space and time.

    But why do the atheists exist since time immortal. these indivuals that do not conform to universal laws of the state govenment and spiritual houses. i believe they exists because of mans state of existence on this planet. i believe we are all the children of god with a duty to cultivate and grow upon this planet. i believe our duty is THY will be done on earth as it is in heaven. i believe heaven is a utopian advanced civilization in the universe. i believe the highest form of civilization exists somewhere in this universe, i believe we are here with the obvious fact given absolutely nothing by ways of tools to cultivate this planet, only our free will and mind and an opportunity to show our creator what the children can do together. i believe the atheists are neglected persons who have been hurt in early childhood by abuse in physical or verbal means, i believe atheists have been hurt by their fellowman and are disgusted by the actions of others who call themselves followers of a higher power, i believe those hurt hurt the atheists sometime in their lives were no string followers of faith in god, but in fact, like them, hurt too somewhere in life and the cycle continues. i believe the atheists are a function of mans behavior towards one another. i believe when man is mans best friend, we make sure we are all fed, all housed, all educated, all loved, when all man no matter what struggle is place upon them, they will fight and defend their fellowman as children of god, i believe when this day comes, there will be no atheists upon this earth. why, because the days of faith will end upon this planet as man has performed his initial goal as children of god- THY will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I believe this world will be visited by an advanced civilization, one which is our connected family within this universe, i believe answers for our existence will come, they will come when man continues to struggle to fight for the life and dignity of all the human race. I believe it has been said by the Christ- my kingdom is not of this world- this implies our roots are not only from earth, but another place in the universe and all is connected. i believe the supernatural events depicted by the Christ is an example of power that has been respected by many cultures in pyramids in ancient societies, i believe when man places his soul in a higher power with faith we are far greater than we can comprehend at this stage of our growth upon this planet, your soul will find comfort. it is clear we have division in today’s world with spirituality and who is right or wrong, what language do we speak, what culture, who is true, who is false. I believe life is a struggle, since our time in inception from swimming amongst our brothers to find our mate;) to life itself the struggle, i believe god has given us a wonderful place for all of us to come together and struggle to make peace on earth. i believe we will succeed as children of a higher god.

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