A big problem with atheism and morality

by Matt Slick

I often receive complaints from atheists about the God of Christianity.  They accuse him of being a monster and a moral tyrant.  They just don't like him.  Apparently, there isn't enough room in the world for two moral judges:  God and themselves.  So, they want to dismiss God and judge him.  Okay, so what gives them to right to judge God?  Where is their standard from which they base their moral assertions about what is right and wrong?  The problem is that they can't produce any objective standard.  They only have their subjective opinions, and that is a problem--a big problem.

Now, just because they have a dilemma on their hands about rationally and morally justifying any sort of standard of righteousness by which they can make moral judgments, it doesn't mean they are going to give up their moral self-righteousness (isn't that what it is?) when someone shows them the irrationality door and firmly escorts their rears through it.  After all, when you get to play God and make yourself the moral standard of right and wrong, that is hard to give up.  I'm sure there's some internal satisfaction that permeates the atheist's soul when declaring what is good and bad and then passing judgment on others.  The problem is that no atheist I've encountered has been able to provide a rational justification for his moral judgments.

Let's just take a look at their dilemma.  You see, if an atheist wants to complain about the God of the Bible, that is his privilege.  I will defend his right to have an opinion--even such a stupendously wrong one.  But what logical argument can an atheist provide that would justify him saying that anything God does really is wrong?  Think about it.  The atheist could only have three possible options for the source of a moral standard:

  1. He can develop a moral standard out of his own opinions.
  2. He can adopt the moral standards of society.
  3. He can use a combination of his own opinions and the morals of society.

Other than those three, I don't see any other options.  So, let's take a look at them.

Deriving morality from one's own opinions

If an atheist wants to develop his moral standard based on his own opinions, then what justifies his opinions as being the right ones?  His opinions are subjective--not objective. They are based on his opinions so why should we take his moral opinions seriously?  And what right does he have to say that anyone else's moral position is right or wrong?  Isn't their opinion on morals as valid as his?  Furthermore, if he tried to say that anyone else's morals were wrong, then isn't he being arrogant by judging another's subjective opinions based on his subjective opinions?  These questions expose the problem of deriving morality from one's self.

Deriving morality from society

If we go with the second option where the atheist derives his morality from society, then what makes one society right and another wrong?  Haven't societies been wrong before?  Think of Nazi Germany or America in the 1800's regarding slavery.  Furthermore, who's to say that in the future a new moral majority might condemn atheism as an ethical danger to society?  Would they be right?  How would you know?  The point is that deriving morality from society doesn't mean it is correct.  History has shown that to be the case.  Many atheists respond to this criticism by saying that society is evolving and getting better morally.  Okay, but that is just begging the question.  In other words, they are saying society is getting better morally because we are evolving.  Really?  In other words, societies are getting better morally because societies say so?

Deriving morality from opinions and society

Finally, if the atheist uses his own opinions in combination with those of society, then he is subjectively deciding what he thinks is right and wrong in the society around him.  He is judging society's morals and deciding which ones are right and wrong, which ultimately brings us back to the first problem where he's deriving morality from his own opinions.  He's logically befuddled.

So, the atheist doesn't seem to have a leg to stand on when it comes to making moral assertions and actually defending them as being the right ones.

Since he doesn't have any moral standing by which to make objective moral claims, then all he can say is that he doesn't like the God of Christianity.  He can't say that the God of Christianity as found in the Bible is objectively morally wrong because he doesn't have an objective moral standard by which to make such a judgment.  He only has a subjective opinion.  If he then tries to impose his opinions on others, he then becomes guilty of arrogance and judgmentalism.

Atheists are stuck, but they don't care.  All they have to do is ignore the logic, ignore their moral dilemma, and continue along in their subjective, opinionated, emotional path of moral relativism while they condemn the actions of anyone who doesn't agree with them.  I guess rational ignorance is bliss.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.