Why God is Necessary for Morality

by Al Serrato

“No,” my friend insisted, “Morality is just a social construct. It’s a product of ‘group-think,’ a way for the herd to govern itself. It’s just part of the way the mind works, and like the mind, it evolves with the passage of time.”

We had been discussing (here) whether the existence of morality was evidence tending to show the existence of a supreme law-giver, God. I argued that morality is a message, a set of instructions influencing us in how we should act, and that messages only come from intelligent sources. Since moral messages are coming to us from outside of our cultural or temporal setting, there must exist, somewhere, a source for these messages. He disagreed, arguing that such “messages,” if they exist at all, come ultimately from us.

“Slow down a second,” I said. “Let me grant part of what you say. I agree that some rules, some instructions as to how we should act, come from us. We develop social conventions that help us navigate situations in ways that are mutually productive, and each culture may view these customs differently. Looking someone in the eye when discussing a contentious issue might be a sign of respect in one culture but a grave insult in another. We obviously have to know these things if we want to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”

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“Exactly,” he said, beginning to gloat that he had made his point.

“But,” I continued, “the issue here isn’t whether some rules are man-made. No, the question is whether there are any rules that don’t stem from us. Because, if there are, we’re back where we started, in need of an adequate explanation. So, even if I can identify only a handful, or perhaps even one, ‘message’ from an external source, my argument would retain its validity.”

“But you can’t,” my friend insisted. “It’s all just man-made.”

“I don’t think so,” I began. “What you’re not considering is the whole process by which we make moral decisions. It’s not simply learning rules of the road, or rules of behavior. Part of the ‘message’ that we’re receiving is that we really ought to act a certain way. We may disagree on what that way is, but we intuitively try to align ourselves with that ‘right way,’ all the while condemning others who view things differently, or who act differently. We want to not only do what we think is ‘right,’ but convince others of that as well. Why should that be so?”

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