Can Morality Exist Without God?

Submitted by Libby on Tue, 10/31/2017 - 04:37

What is morality? How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Where did morality and moral standards come from? Or who made them, if anyone? I had never pondered these questions until I recently got the question to study, “Can morality exist without God?” It’s a rather tough question when you think of it. But through research, I’ve been able to come up with an answer. No set standard of morality can exist for everyone without the existence of God; in fact, the very presence of morality is rather an additional proof to the existence of God.

Before I delve into explaining my answer, we need to answer the first question I asked: What is morality?

Morality, by multiple dictionary definitions on the internet that are mish-mashed together can be defined as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

Basically, how do we know what is right, and what is wrong? Morality, or a moral standard is used to determine what is right or wrong. Is it moral to steal? I think the answer most would give is no.

But now to answer the other questions of morality, right, and wrong. Can a moral standard exist without God?

A while ago, a murderer named Jeffrey Dahmer, who was later murdered himself, was once asked by a reporter why he did what he did. Why did he murder if it was wrong? His answer was as follows: “If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…”

If there is no God, there is no moral standard. As Jeffrey said, we don’t need to keep ourselves accountable to anybody, but ourselves. No one sets any standards except ourselves. And if we don’t live up to our original standards, we change them—if God does not exist.

So where did morality in the world come from then? Why is it universally acknowledged that murder is wrong? Even if you believe that murder is wrong, is it still right if someone else murders, because he believes it to be right, like Jeffrey Dahmer? Is it okay with you if a dude knifes kid on the street in front of your house, just because he thinks it’s right and his action doesn’t affect you directly?

No! I think that even people who are opposed to the idea of God giving a moral standard would agree with that answer.

How do we know that it’s not right then?

Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I want to say. A long time ago, when I was around six, my mom had carefully instructed me not to sit with my legs up at church, even if my feet were cold. I obeyed her grudgingly for the next few weeks, until my Grandparents came over for a visit. Since there wasn’t enough room for all of us in one row, my mom conveniently offered to sit in the row in front of us. I sat next to Grandma, and as she knew nothing of the rule my mom had gave me, I put my legs up, and enjoyed having them warm for once.

All the same, I knew what I had done was wrong; something inside me told me that I had done a very bad thing in disobeying my mom and that I should confess it. Eventually, my torment became too large for me to bear, and I told her about my sin, and asked her to forgive me. This might sound like a sweet little story. But how did I, a six-year-old little girl, who deliberately disobeyed her mom, know that my actions had not been right? Why did I have that feeling inside of me?

Because I had—and still have—a conscience. Because of my conscience, I have a “gut feeling” when I’ve done something wrong, or have seen someone do something bad. And where did my conscience come from? God created it inside of every one of humankind. He put inside us our consciences that have knowledge of his moral and perfect standard that he holds us up to—whether we choose to ignore our consciences or not.

Furthermore, in God’s Word, the Bible, he clearly states his moral law. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. God gave those to his people to show them what he required his people to be like and what laws they had to obey in order to be perfect. Where did the law “Do not murder” come from originally? Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” And there’s the Greatest Commandments, in Matthew, where Jesus says that we are to love God with all that we are, and to love others as we love ourselves. All throughout the Bible, God sets down the moral standard he holds up to us.

You see, morality cannot exist without God because God is the very one who has created morality, or what we call moral standards. Without him—there’s no morality, no conscience, and really no knowledge of what’s right or wrong. Since God created morality, and since morality exists, therefore there must be a God. Far from disproving a common argument for God’s existence, the question, can morality exist without God, is an added proof to his existence.

For no true, perfect moral standard could be created by men, because man is totally corrupt and whatever man does is corrupt, as we observe in everyday life, and in the choices that we make in the world. It says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” How then can man create a moral law without fault? The only answer to this question is that man did not create morality, but that the perfect, holy, faultless God of the universe is the one who has set the one moral standard of the world.

Now we may truly say that morality cannot exist without God.

Author's age when written


I enjoyed reading this and would love to see more from you in this and similar topics! Some other points, just for the sake of discussion:

1) I’ve heard that the first four commandments deal with practical ways for us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that the remaining six deal with how to love our neighbor as ourselves. I love that, since it shows the relevance of this part of the OT, and gives a sense of practicality to our two greatest commandments.

2) Jeffrey Dahmer’s quote makes a goodpoint. You can also see that attitude echoed on the t-shirts worn by the Columbine shooters. (Which almost terrifies me because just the other day I saw a kid at school with a shirt that said “pro-death”)

3) It’s very true, as you concluded, that the existence of morality proves God’s existence. It’s also true (I believe C.S. Lewis argues this) that our indignation at immorality proves God’s existence, by virtue of such indignation being a result of an inescapable universal moral standard we all have written on our hearts.

Well-written, we’ll-organized, and thought-provoking essay! Thanks for posting :)

Wow, thank so much for the comment. I never thought about how our indignation at immorality is additional proof, but it makes perfect sense as I think about it.
The Columbine shooting was such a tragedy, and it must be pretty scary to see people wearing such t-shirts!
About the Ten Commandments, that's a neat way of putting it. I dislike it when people say the Ten Commandments are ways that we get right with God, because they really aren't. Dividing it like you said, if we take in the New Testament and the Old Testament, I think clarifies that the commandments are not ways to save ourselves, but rather to show our love to others, and ultimately to God.
I really appreciate that you took time to comment!