Morality 1: Can we really get by without God?
In The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky the character Ivan Karamazov points out that “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”
My question then is: Is it true that if you get rid of God, then morality begins to fall apart?
I think the answer is that it depends on which morality we are talking about. If we are talking about objective morality then yes we need God.
Objective morality refers to that order in the universe about what is right and wrong. I experience this order through my conscience. A conscience, which pushes me and prods me to do what is right even though I may not want to.
This is that objective morality, which we discover through prayer, effort, searching, and much discussion. It is this morality, which strikes beauty in us whenever we see it in either a Ghandi, a Mother Theresa, or a Jean Luc Picard. This morality is outside of me and therefore I can be right or wrong about it.
In this view, even if a poll tomorrow shows that 98% of the Canadian population believes that abortion is ok, they can still be wrong. This is because in this objective view of morality, abortion is wrong irrespective of what I or the Canadian population thinks.
But in the subjective view, we can make morality into whatever we want. In this view, I can say murder is right. You can say murder is wrong. We can disagree with each other because at the end of the day all we have are our opinions.
Sure this seems fine. “You have your values, and I have mine,” so says the world. But what about when your values go completely against my own? Then we have conflict. What about when your values advocate stealing, censorship, lying, and murder? Then we have the destruction of human life.
We are in a scary stage of human civilization if all I can say in the face or murder, theft and adultery, is “to each his own.”
I once believed that morality was subjective and that we can make it into whatever we want it to be. Then I faced the reality that actions have consequences. What’s more, in this life and in the next life these consequences arn’t pretty.
Indeed I will be called before the One whose “…judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:2). I don’t know about you, but the thought of being judged in absolute truth and justice causes not a little fear in me.
If there is no God, no being of supreme goodness, love and intelligence, then all we have are our opinions; for God can be the only source of an objective morality.
Our modern culture, in its near abandonment of God, is at a major crossroads. After all, how can we continue to live in the house when the foundation is no longer there?